La Scena Musicale

Sunday, 27 September 2015

This Week in Toronto (Sept. 28 - Oct. 4)

Toronto Concert Picks for the Week of Sept. 28 to Oct. 5

~ Joseph So

Soprano Adrianne Pieczonka (Photo: Bo Huang)

Canadian soprano and Toronto resident Adrianne Pieczonka makes a rare appearance on the Toronto recital stage on September 29th 8 pm at Koerner Hall, under the auspices of Soundstreams, an organization that specializes in the presentation of contemporary classical music.  Billed as Adrianne Pieczonka: Beyond the Aria, the soprano, together with mezzo Krisztina Szabo, sing an eclectic program that combines George Crumb's Ancient Voices of Children with the Beatles.  They are accompanied by a chamber orchestra under the baton of conductor Leslie Dala.  There is a pre-concert chat at 7 pm, well worth attending since some of the repertoire will likely be unfamiliar - and I'm not talking about the Beatles! Tickets available online or at the Koerner Hall box office.

Pianist Kirill Gerstein

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is presenting an interesting program this week, juxtaposing Shostakovich, Prokofiev with Gershwin!  Not sure how that's going to work, but it would be interesting to hear. The brilliant Russian born American pianist Kirill Gerstein returns to Toronto to play the Gershwin Piano Concerto in F. American conductor James Gaffigan is also coming back to conduct.The Wednesday Sept. 30 performance starts at 6:30 pm, and is an abbreviated program of just Shostakovich and Gershwin. This is part of the Afterworks series, designed to catch people after they get off work but before going home. Apparently they are serving appetizers in the lobby before the show. Thursday and Saturday performances have the additional Prokofiev Symphony No. 5 - but no appetizers!

Conductor James Gaffigan (Photo: Franca Pedrazzetti)

The Royal Conservatory Orchestra is presenting Mahler Symphony No. 4  with soprano soloist Mireille Asselin. With her beautiful light lyric soprano, Asselin's voice is made for this piece. It is paired with the Elgar Violin Concerto, with soloist Alexis Hatch. To my ears, this Elgar work is sublime - very long at nearly an hour, and technically a real tour de force. Since hearing it nearly 35 years ago with Nigel Kennedy in London, I always seek out this piece to attend. The conductor is Julian Kuerti, who is the son of Anton of course, but a terrific conductor in his own right.  He is the principal conductor of the Orquesta Sinfonica de la Universidad de Concepcion in Chile. Performance is on Friday Oct. 2nd 8 pm at Koerner Hall.

Soprano Mireille Asselin

Violinist Cecilia Bernardini is the soloist and guest director of Tafelmusik for four performances of Musik Mania, an intriguing program of warhorses and rarities - works by Bach, Vivaldi, Telemann, Geminiani, Zelenka and Keiser.  The Bach, Vivaldi and Telemann pieces are very familiar, but the Zelenka piece I am unfamiliar with. Here's the very informative program notes -  I found out from the notes that it's the Jan Dismas Zelenka work, Hypochrondria that gives this concert its title Musik Mania!  Four performances - Oct. 1, 2, 3, 4 (matinee) at Trinity St. Paul Centre.

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Friday, 25 September 2015

International Resource Centre for Performing Artists Presents "Encounters"

October 28-November 5, 2015

Newcomers to Canada/Arts Labour Unions: Oct. 28
Composers & Performers/Meet the Funders: Oct. 30
Who’s Who in the Industry: Nov. 1
Encounter for Singers with Measha Brueggergosman: Nov. 3-4
Encounter with Marco Guidarini: Nov. 5

For release September 25, 2015 – The International Resource Centre for Performing Artists ( – a service organization for Canada’s musicians – presents Encounters for  singers, and Hot Topics workshops requested by and for performers and others in the music business, in late October and early November.  Partners in these fall sessions include Lula Music and Arts Centre, the Canadian Music Centre, Performing Arts Lodge, Italian Cultural Institute, and Alliance Française.

The events are focused on artists in the classical, opera, jazz, contemporary and world music fields.  All people working in the industry or members of their support systems are welcome.

The first day, October 28, featuring two workshops, is presented free of charge to IRCPA members, while non-members are offered special subsidized fees.  (Free membership is available on the IRCPA website.)  Attendees are encouraged to register in advance on the website, or by calling 416-362-1422.

The following are the workshops presented this fall by the IRCPA and partners:

HOT TOPICS – Wednesday, October 28 at Lula Music and Arts Centre. 1585 Dundas St. W.  

9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. $20; Free admission for IRCPA members; $10 lunch available:
ARTISTS NEW TO CANADA – Integrating Socially and Professionally in Canada
Citizenship Judge Wojciech Sniegowski moderates a panel comprising Toronto-based Canadians originally from other countries – among them Sonia Oduwa Aimy, jazz and world music singer from Nigeria via Italy; Natasha Roldan, singer/songwriter from Colombia; Younggun Kim, pianist, from Korea; and Yasmina Proveyer, artist manager from Cuba via China.

1:30 – 4 p.m. $20; Free admission for IRCPA members:
MEET THE LABOUR UNIONS FOR THE ARTS – Benefits, Membership, Costs, Rules, Exemptions
Understanding services available and how and why rules are made are topics explored by panelists who include Arden Ryshpan, executive director, Canadian Actors' Equity Association;
Dan Broome, manager, Toronto Musicians’ Association, AFM; and Dr. Réa Beaumont, pianist, board member, Toronto Musicians’ Association. 

ALL ABOUT COMPOSERS AND INTERPRETERS – Friday, October 30, at the Canadian Music Centre, 20 St. Joseph Street

9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.  $20 IRCPA Members (or $30 for the day); non-members $25 (or $35 for the day)
ALL ABOUT COMPOSERS/INTERPRETERS: Commissions, Licensing, Collaborations, Copyright, Digital Distribution
Matthew Fava, Ontario director of the Canadian Music Centre, moderates a panel that includes Brian Harman, president, Canadian League of Composers; and 
Paul Hoffert, composer and recording artist. The panelists discuss essentials for composers and performers, in such areas as commissioning, licensing, royalties, copyright, collaborations, and digital distribution.

1:30 - 4:00 p.m. $20 IRCPA Members; non-members $25
MEET THE FUNDERS: What you don’t know CAN hurt you – Policies, Deadlines, Juries, Applications, Reports
Moderated by Glenn Hodgins, executive director of the Canadian Music Centre, the panel includes Christy DiFelice, music officer, Toronto Arts Council; David Parsons, classical music officer, Ontario Arts Council; Jeff Morton, music officer, Canada Council for the Arts; and Aurora Bangarth, Project Coordinator,  Factor.  They will provide information on recent changes in policies and paperwork.  

WHO’S WHO IN THE INDUSTRY – Sunday, November 1, 2:30-5:30 p.m. at the Performing Arts Lodge, 110 The Esplanade  
Cost: $20 IRCPA members; non-members $25 (Membership is free by signing up online or at the door.)

Artists and support personnel involved in opera, classical, jazz, world and other music fields are invited to interact with leaders in the business, at the IRCPA’sWho’s Who in the Industry panel.

Toronto Star music columnist William Littler moderates a high-voltage session that examines the challenges and advantages of the present day, through the perspectives of music presenters, managers, performers, journalists, publicists and more. To date, panelists include presenters Annette Sanger, president, Women’s Musical Club;  Anthony Sargent, CEO, Luminato Festival; and Stan Passfield, artistic director, Orillia Concert Society; artist managers Faye Perkins, Real World Management/Records; and Kathy Domoney,  Domoney Artists Management; and publicists Luisa Trisi, Big Picture Productions; andVictoria Lord , VLPR Inc. 
This is an opportunity to learn how and why decisions are made in programming, and when and how to approach presenters, managers or journalists.

ENCOUNTER FOR SINGERS WITH MEASHA BRUEGGERGOSMAN – Tuesday-Wednesday, November 3-4, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2-5 p.m.  at  Alliance Française, 24 Spadina Road

Internationally celebrated  soprano Measha Brueggergosman, one of Canada’s best known opera singers and recitalists, works with young professional singers  in opera, oratorio or recital, in a two-day Encounter.  From her own knowledge and wide-ranging experience, she will advise them on repertoire, performance, stagecraft, style and career essentials.

“Encounters” are in four sessions, each day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2-5 p.m.  Singers sing twice over the two days.  Requests to participate must be received no later than October 20. Membership and request forms may be filled out online at, or obtained by calling 416-362-1422 or

Observers are welcome, at the IRCPA member rate of $20 per session, or $30 for each day; non-members $25, or $35 for the day.  (Free membership may be obtained by filling out the form at

ENCOUNTER WITH MAESTRO MARCO GUIDARINI – Thursday, November 5, 2-5 p.m. at Alliance Française, 24 Spadina Road

Italian maestro Marco Guidarini, who is visiting Toronto to conduct the Canadian Opera Company’s performances of La Traviata, has graciously accepted the IRCPA’s invitation to advise five Canadian singers on their Italian style and pronunciation in performance.  Observers are welcome, $20 for IRCPA members; non-members $25.

The above events are coordinated by the International Resource Centre for Performing Artists, a non-profit, charitable organization, in partnership with Alliance Française, Canadian Music Centre, Italian Cultural Institute, Lula Music and Arts Centre and Performing Arts Lodge.

The IRCPA acknowledges, with thanks, funding from the Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, Canada Council and private donors, and the generous collaboration of all the moderators, panelists and participants.  

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Wednesday, 23 September 2015

2015-16 COC Ensemble Artists Start Season on a High Note (Review)

2015-16 COC Ensemble Artists Start Season on a High Note (Review)

Meet the Young Artists
Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre / 12 pm September 22nd 2015

Dies Bildnis  (Tamino) Die Zauberfloete  / Charles Sy, tenor / Hyejin Kwon, piano
Donne mie, la fate a tanti  (Alfonso) Cosi / Gordon Bintner, bs-baritone / Jennifer Szeto, piano
Dalla sua pace (Ottavio) Don Giovanni / Aaron Sheppard, tenor / Hyejin Kwon, piano
Giusto ciel, in tal periglio (Anna) Maometto II / Karine Boucher, soprano / Jennifer Szeto, piano
Where'er you walk (Jupiter) Semele / Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure, tenor / Hyejin Kwon, piano
Bella siccome un angelo (Malatesta) Don Pasquale / Iain MacNiel, bs-baritone / Hyejin Kwon, piano
En fermant les yeux (Des Grieux) Manon / Andrew Haji, tenor / Jennifer Szeto, piano
Toi qui sus le neant/Tu che le vanita (Elisabetta) Don Carlos / Aviva Fortunata, piano

(l. to r. Hyejin Kwon, Jennifer Szeto, Aviva Fortunata, Charles Sy, Gordon Bintner, Aaron Sheppard, Karine Boucher, Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure, Iain MacNeil, Andrew Haji) Photo: Chris Hutcheson

For followers of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio, September is an exciting time. That's when we get to renew acquaintances with returning artists, and to meet new ones joining the Ensemble. This year is a particularly interesting one.  As a long time follower of the Ensemble since its inception in the early 80's, I don't ever recall a season with four tenors!  And back in the 80's the ensemble was larger, with something like 18 artists.  We usually think of tenors as fairly rare in the music world, with the baritone voice being considered the more "natural" sound for men.  But COC has had the great good fortunate to be tenor-rich the past three or four seasons. This year we have four excellent tenors and two sopranos and no mezzos - good thing there are two bass-baritones to hold down the fort for the lower voices!  All eight singers this year are very fine singers with beautiful voices and solid training, and plenty of communicative power. And let's not forget the two collaborative pianists/coaches - they are the ones that make the singers look good! The Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre was packed, and they were not disappointed. 

Tenor Charles Sy, one of the two new members of the Ensemble, kicked off the proceedings with Tamino's "Dies Bildnis." A graduate of U of T Opera Program, Sy has really blossomed into a very fine tenor, with solid technique and the requisite musicality.  This afternoon, his voice rang out with a more robust timbre than I had remembered, large enough for the modern-day opera house, with plenty of warmth in his sound, evenly produced up and down the scale, totally secure and the aria executed with nice dynamic control, The Tamino aria is not an easy piece as so much of it sits in the passaggio, but he sang it beautifully. An excellent start to the concert! 

He was followed by bass-baritone Gordon Bintner, who has been a stellar member of the Ensemble the past two seasons. To me, Bintner is the complete package - wonderful voice used with elegance and taste, abundant musicality, cutting a handsome figure and commanding stage presence, with charisma to burn. I recall his excellent Alfonso two seasons ago. Once again he sang the Alfonso aria with rich tone and vivid acting. He mentioned to the audience he's going to sing the Count in the Ensemble Nozze di Figaro,  The tessitura for the Count is high for a bass-baritone - it tells me the Bintner voice is moving up. The second new member of the Ensemble, St. John's Newfoundland tenor Aaron Sheppard offered Ottavio's Act One aria from Don Giovanni. The Sheppard voice is that of a fairly light tenor, with an attractive timbre. I believe he is only 23, still very early in his operatic journey despite having amassed an impressive CV.  His "Dalla sua pace" showed off his nice mezza voce, important in this aria. If I were to quibble, his fortissimo notes, especially in the upper middle could occasionally sound flat, which I'm sure will be corrected during his time in the Ensemble under the capable guidance of voice teacher/former soprano Wendy Nielsen. 

(l. to r.) Andrew Haji, Iain MacNeil, Gordon Bintner, Jennifer Szeto, Karine Boucher, Aaron Sheppard, Charles Sy, Aviva Fortunata, Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure, Hyejin Kwon (Photo: Chris Hutcheson)

Quebec soprano Karine Boucher offered Anna's lament, "Giusto ciel, in tal periglio" from a rare Rossini opera, Maometto secondo. I was lucky to have seen Joyce DiDonato sing this in Santa Fe Opera a few summers ago. This piece, though written for soprano, requires a strong middle, thus high mezzos like Bartoli and DiDonato have had great success with it. Boucher's warm lyric with its strong middle is lovely in this Bellini-like cantilena, sung here without the recitative. She delivered it with poise and pathos, the only thing one wished for was a bit more dynamic variation. French Canadian tenor Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure, who sang his calling card aria from Le Roi d'Ys so beautifully last year, showed off his versatility with a surprise - the quintessential English aria 'Where'er you Walk" from Semele. This aria requires good legato, long breath line and plangent tone. Fortier-Lazure's warm, soft-grained tenor aced this piece.

Bass-baritone Iain MacNeil followed with Dr. Malatesta's "Bella siccome un angelo" from Don Pasquale.  MacNeil was a fine Bartolo in the Ensemble performance of Barber last spring. His sturdy sound and lively stage presence was ideal in this aria - I can see him as a very fine buffo baritone in future seasons. Of the four tenors, Andrew Haji has the highest profile and the most significant accomplishment - as the "triple crown winner" a year ago in 's-Hertogenbosch International Vocal Competition in Holland. More recently he was chosen to sing in a Teresa Stratas tribute in Athens. This fall, he is Alfredo in the alternate, all Canadian cast of La traviata currently in rehearsal. His gorgeous lyric tenor, ideal in Mozart and the lighter French and Italian repertoires, is sounding great. He sang Des Grieux's technically tricky "En fermant les yeux" with rich, refulgent tone, complete technical security, and convincing acting. I would say he's earmarked for a fine career.   

The final singer was soprano Aviva Fortunata, who has one of those comparatively rare soprano voices, a large, full lyric with spinto aspirations. She chose Elisabetta's "Tu che le vanita" - here sung in French as "Toi qui sus le neant" from Don Carlos. Fortunata's voice reminds me a bit of the former Ensemble soprano Joni Henson, who also sang Elisabetta on the mainstage in one performance replacing an indisposed Adrianne Pieczonka. Fortunata has a hall-filling, ringing soprano with plenty of squillo, but it's capable of nuance as well. This is a daunting aria that lasts almost eight minutes, and she gave a fine rendition. Fortunata for sure is a singer to watch.

There you have it, eight singers, beautifully supported by the two Ensemble pianists - the excellent Jennifer Szeto and the very promising new addition Hyejin Kwon.  With six of the eight singers with "high voices," they truly start the new season on a "high note"! I look forward to hearing more from them this season.

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Sunday, 20 September 2015

This Week in Toronto (Sept. 21 - 27)

My Toronto concert picks for the week of September 21 to 27

Joseph So

Now that we are in the third week of September, I am starting my weekly Toronto concert preview once again.  Top on my list this week the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's season opener, with the great violinist Itzhak Perlman playing the Bruch violin concerto, under the baton of the TSO music director Peter Oundjian. Also on the program are Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 and The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Paul Dukas. This is a very popular program, plus Perlman is a perennial favourite in Toronto. I've heard that opening night is close to - if not already - sold out but there are always returns. Check with the box office. Thursday Sept. 24 7 pm at Roy Thomson Hall.

This just in:  Itzhak Perlman has cancelled his appearance in the opening night of the TSO due to emergency gall bladder surgery. Replacing him is violinist and TSO frequent guest violinist Pinchas Zukerman. The program remains unchanged. 

Violinist Pinchas Zukerman 

Violinist Itzhak Perlman (Photo: Lisa Marie Mazzucco)

Following the opening night gala, the TSO is presenting three performances of its "Three Bs" program of Beethoven Symphony No. 5, Brahms Double Concerto featuring TSO concertmaster Jonathan Crow and Principal Cello Joseph Johnson, and Bach Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. This is a truly "heart of the repertoire" type of program that every music lover should not miss. Friday Sept. 25 and Saturday Sept. 26 at Roy Thomson Hall, followed by a matinee on Sunday Sept. 27 at George Weston Recital hall in North York.  Once again, Peter Oundjian is at the helm.

TSO Concertmaster Jonathan Crow (Photo: Sian Richards)

The Canadian Opera Company is currently in rehearsal for its fall season of La traviata and Pyramus and Thisbe, but its free noon hour series starts this Tuesday Sept. 22 at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre with a recital given by the COC Ensemble Studio artists. Members this year are sopranos Aviva Fortunata and Karine Boucher, tenors Andrew Haji, Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure, Aaron Sheppard and Charles Sy, bass baritones Iain MacNeil and Gordon Bintner, and pianists/coach Jennifer Szeto and HyeJin Kwon. I have not done any research, but I'm willing to bet this is a first for the Ensemble to have four tenors in one year!  Perhaps it might have happened way back in the 1980's when the Ensemble was larger, up to something like 18 artists.  But to have four tenors out of eight singers is very unusual! They will be on hand to sing an aria each. Here's the program   This is an extremely popular event, so be sure to show up an hour ahead to ensure a spot.

The Arc Ensemble

The "Arc" in the Arc Ensemble stands for "Artists of the Royal Conservatory." It is made up of eight wonderful musicians and they will be giving a concert at Koerner Hall on Saturday Sept. 26th 3 pm. On the program are works by Mozart, Shostakovich and Mieczyslaw Weinberg. Details at   The concert is free - part of the Culture Days events in Toronto, but you do need a ticket to get in.  Here is the link to reserve a ticket online -

Soprano Nathalie Paulin

The Off Centre Music Salon has been a staple of Sunday afternoon concert-going under  the stewardship of pianists Inna Perkis and Boris Zarankin for the last 20 years. It opens its 21st season in a new venue, the Trinity St. Paul's Centre, 427 Bloor Street West, Toronto. This is the same venue for Tafelmusik. The program is called Russia Cast Adrift, with a quartet of very fine singers, soprano Nathalie Paulin, mezzo Emilia Boteva, tenor Ernesto Ramirez and baritone Geoffrey Sirett. They sing the song cycle Russia Cast Adrift by Sviridov. I recall hearing part of this song cycle sung by the great Dmitri Hvorostovsky many years ago in Toronto.  Also on the program are works by Rachmaninoff, Gavrillin and Scriabin.

Pianist Stewart Goodyear

Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear is playing a recital under the auspices of Mooredale Concerts. He plays Bach's Goldberg Variations and Beethoven's Diabelli Variations. The recital is on Sunday September 27th 3 pm at Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building, University of Toronto. You can purchase tickets in advance at

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Saturday, 19 September 2015

Pyramus and Thisbe : A Preview

Pyramus and Thisbe: A Sneak Peek

Joseph So

It's that time of year again - cooling temperatures (though not so much  this year in Toronto), kids back to school, garden furniture, tank tops and shorts back into storage, and most of all, the heating up of the new musical season. Opera fans in TO can look forward to two productions at the Canadian Opera Company, a warhorse, La traviata, and a rarity, or should I say two rare fragments framing the centerpiece, a new opera, Pyramus and Thisbe, the first Canadian work on the mainstage at the COC since Randolph Peters' The Golden Ass in 1999.  This new work was composed by Canadian composer Barbara Monk Feldman in 2010. Monk Feldman hails from Quebec. She studied at the Hochschule fur Musik in Freiburg, followed by a doctorate in composition from the State University of New York at Buffalo, where she studied with the late American composer and professor Morton Feldman (1926-1987), to whom she was married.

Composer Barbara Monk Feldman (Photo: Jeff Higgins)

According to the composer's note on this work, Pyramus and Thisbe is based on the story from Ovid's Metamorphoses, about a boy and a girl who fall in love but are forbidden to marry by their parents. Sounds familiar?  Of course this archetypal story of the star-crossed lovers is also the basis for many literary and musical creations, from Shakespeare's and Gounod's Romeo et Juliette to Bernstein's West Side Story.  Monk Feldman, who was not present at the Media Preview yesterday, writes in the notes that the opera was inspired by a painting by Nicolas Poussin which she saw in Frankfurt in 1983. She had wanted to write a modern piece based on this story, which she eventually composed in 2008-2010. This is a short opera involving two soloists, in this case baritone Phillip Addis and mezzo Krisztina Szabo.

Baritone Phillip Addis and mezzo Krisztina Szabo at rehearsal (Photo: Chris Hutcheson)

Pyramus and Thisbe is presented together with two short Monteverdi fragments, Lamento d'Arianna, and Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. The whole evening is a short one, lasting an hour and ten minutes with no intermission.  But it's an intense 70 minutes, based on what I saw and heard at the rehearsal yesterday.  Due to its unfamiliarity, the COC invited members of the media to a sneak preview yesterday. Similar media previews took place with productions of Stravinsky's The Nightingale and Handel's Semele a few seasons ago. These previews are excellent opportunities for the press to learn about the unfamiliar works. It is still early in the rehearsal process, so things will continue to evolve and develop in the next three weeks, but what I saw and heard yesterday was illuminating. 

Conductor Johannes Debus speaking to the journalists at the press preview (Photo: Chris Hutcheson)

The creative team, conductor Johannes Debus and  stage director Christopher Alden, gave us their thoughts on what it's like to bring a new work to the stage. The two singers then rehearsed a passage from the Monk Feldman opera, in a sitzprobe without stage action, with piano accompaniment from Rachel Andrist.  Based on the music at the rehearsal, I find the work chamber-like, quite sparse (at least with piano accompaniment), a bit dissonant but tonal and accessible, with a soundscape that's ethereal and evocative, even hypnotic. One shouldn't come to the show expecting hummable tunes, but one can expect to be drawn into the work through Monk Feldman's singular musical and harmonic language.  This was my earliest impressions, but since we didn't have the benefit of an orchestra, chorus, or sets, it's impossible to gauge the impact of Pyramus and Thisbe in a larger space like the 2,100 seat Four Seasons Centre.  This question can only be answered after we've seen the finished product at the FSC.

(l. to r.) Krisztina Szabo, Christopher Alden, Phillip Addis, Owen McCausland (Photo: Chris Hutcheson)

After a short break, the rehearsal resumed with the beginning of Monteverdi's Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, a short piece for three voices that lasts under 20 minutes. The only voice heard was that of Testo, essentially the narrator and not involved in the action. Former Ensemble artist Owen McCausland takes on Testo, his robust and clarion tenor, complete with a nice trill, sounded great. The staging involved Szabo (Clorinda) and Addis (Tancredi), and it was fascinating to see Christopher Alden work with them on the movements, tapping into the emotional depth of the character and bringing it to the surface with just a few gestures. This nearly 500 year old work deals with issues of love and religious conflict, something that's as relevant today as it was then. There are several recordings of this piece, including a recent one with Mexican tenor Rolando Villazon under the baton of Emannuelle Haim. Here is another recording, led by Baroque specialist William Christie and his Les arts Florissants, available on Youtube.

The production runs for seven performances from October 20 to November 7 at the Four Seasons Centre.

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Sunday, 6 September 2015

In Memoriam: Violinist Jacques Israelievitch (May 6 1948 - Sept. 5 2015)

VIOLINIST JACQUES ISRAELIEVITCH (May 6, 1948 –September 5, 2015)

Toronto, September 6, 2015 – Violinist Jacques Israelievitch, who enjoyed an international career as a soloist, conductor and teacher, died Saturday in Toronto.  He was 67 years old.

He is survived by his beloved wife Gabrielle; sons David, Michael (Ana-Sofia Campesino) and Joshua and two much-adored grandchildren, Aya (3 1/2) and Bennett (10 weeks). All were by his side in his final weeks.  His mother and remaining sister and brother live in Paris.

He was diagnosed with aggressive, metastatic lung cancer in late February this year.  On August 14, in a special ceremony at his home, he was presented with the Order of Canada, one of this country’s highest civilian orders, recognizing outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation for nearly three decades.

Israelievitch had the distinction of being the longest-serving concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Retiring in 2008 after 20 years, he joined the faculty of York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, as professor of violin and viola. Dean Shawn Brixey noted, “His gifts and achievements as a musician and educator, and his collaborative spirit in sharing them with us, were an inspiration to us all.” He also inspired young musicians
through master classes and school performances around the world. As music director of the Koffler Chamber Orchestra since 2005, he gave devoted amateurs an outlet for their talents.

Born in Cannes, France and raised in Paris and LeMans, Jacques Israelievitch made his debut on French National Radio at age 11, graduated from the Paris Conservatory at 16, and went on to be a prizewinner at the International Paganini Competition. His teachers included some of the world’s leading string players – Henryk Szeryng, Janos Starker, William Primrose and Josef Gingold.

Prior to moving to Toronto, Israelievitch began his orchestral career at age 23, when he was appointed by Sir Georg Solti as assistant concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. After six years in Chicago, he was named concertmaster of the Saint Louis Symphony, a position he held for 10 seasons.

With numerous solo engagements to his credit, he collaborated with Solti, Giulini, Slatkin, Davis, Dausgaard and Frühbeck de Burgos, appearing with many of the world’s major orchestras. As a distinguished chamber musician, Mr. Israelievitch performed with pianists Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.  He was a founding member of the Toronto Symphony Quartet and the ISA (Israelievitch/Smith/Ahn) Trio, and appeared for many seasons with the Naumburg Award-winning New Arts Trio at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York. With his son, percussionist Michael Israelievitch, he formed the
Israelievitch Duo, which commissioned and premiered works by such distinguished Canadian composers as Michael Colgrass, Srul Irving Glick and Murray Adaskin.

Israelievitch’s discography of more than 100 albums includes the JUNO nominated Suite Hébraiquewith pianist John Greer, Tchaikovsky: The Ballets with the St. Louis Symphony, Beethoven’s Romances with the TSO; and the chamber recordings Suite FrançaiseSuite EnfantineSuite Fantaisie, Solo Suite, and Hammer and Bow. In 2006, he broke new ground by releasing the first complete recording of 42 Studies for Solo Violin by Rodolphe Kreutzer.

Among his more recent achievements was a successful duo partnership with pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico, with whom he gave many recitals. This June, the two launched their first duo CD, Fancies and Interludes, featuring music by four established Canadian composers, on the Canadian Music Centre’s Centrediscs label. They also recorded all 28 Mozart sonatas for violin and piano, a project they initiated with a one-day marathon in May 2014, and repeated over several concerts at York University this past winter and in a performance of four late sonatas this July at the Chautauqua Festival. Despite severe pain and growing weakness, Israelievitch was determined to complete the recording sessions, which they did in May. The multi-CD set will begin releasing in early 2016.
Petrowska Quilico commented, “Jacques was such a role model for me as an inspirational and motivational musician and a friend.  He helped me climb Mount Everest in our wonderful Mozart project.  I will always remember the fun and laughter we had rehearsing and recording. What a great way to make music!”

Visual art was another of his passions, one he shared with his wife, Gabrielle.  From his arrival in Canada in 1988, Israelievitch endeavoured to learn all he could about Canadian art.  He was soon a central member of both music and art circles and defined a unique position for himself as the synthesizer of these cultural spheres.  The couple commissioned works from Canadian artists and employed Canadian craftspeople to build objects, just as he inspired and requested music from Canada`s composers.  Particularly fond of ceramic art, they became the first members of the Gardiner Museum. He also undertook collaborations that combined his music with the visual arts.

Israelievitch was an Officer of the prestigious Order of Arts and Letters of his native France. In 2008 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Toronto Musicians’ Association in recognition of his distinguished contribution to the performing arts in Canada.

Donations in memory of Jacques Israelievitch may be made to the Jacques Israelievitch Endowment for Violin/Viola and Interdisciplinary Arts at York University.

The funeral service will be held at Benjamin’s Park Memorial Chapel (, Monday, 1 p.m.  A memorial concert will be announced at a later date.

More information on Jacques Israelievitch is at
Videos of Jacques Israelievitch performing Mozart with pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico in July at the Chautauqua Festival are available at:


Monday, 24 August 2015

La mélodie préférée de Chantal Lambert

Notre sondage ‘La prochaine grande mélodie’ se poursuit! Votez au La soprano Chantal Lambert, directrice de l'Atelier lyrique de l'Opéra de Montréal, nous partage ses choix ci-dessous.
1. Chanson triste – Henri Duparc

La mélodie qui s’impose à moi la première est Chanson triste, d’Henri Duparc. La structure du poème d'Henri Cazalis, alias Jean Lahor) est ainsi faite que jusqu’à la toute fin, on ne peut imaginer la douleur véritable de celui ou celle qui la chante. Son lyrisme d’une apparente sérénité dans la première strophe cache un univers psychique trouble et mystérieux. Cette mélodie aurait pu être chantée par Robert Schumann lui-même à sa chère Clara… ou tout autant par un homme ou une femme contemporains, dans un état de santé précaire. La partie de piano est d’une richesse infinie et soutient la voix admirablement, l’entraînant dans des arabesques délicieuses. J’aime penser que toute cette mélodie peut être chantée avec un sourire à travers des larmes. À mon sens, il n’y a rien de plus touchant que les accents de ce « mon amour » et du « peut-être » de la dernière phrase mis dans un écrin par la musique de Duparc.

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Sunday, 23 August 2015

Jacqueline Richard (Obituary)

Obituary: Jacqueline Richard (March 8, 1928 - August 2, 2015)
Jacqueline Richard, prominent Canadian operatic coach, accompanist, choir director, organist and orchestra conductor died August 2 in Montreal at the age of 87 following  short illness.
Madame Richard’s career spanned five decades beginning at the age of 14 when she became the studio accompanist for the legendary Canadian soprano and teacher, Pauline Donalda. At the same time she was the piano student of another legendary Canadian musician and teacher, Marie Therese Paquin.
In the years that followed she earned a music degree from the University of Montreal and became very active in the city’s music scene. She gained  great deal of experience working with Radio Canada,   the Opera Guild of Montreal  as well as with Jeunesses Musicales for whom she travelled extensively as accompanist most notably for the violinist Gilles Lefbevre who was the founder of the organization. This led, in 1953, to her receiving the Medaile du Lieutenant Gouveneur du Quebec.
In 1963 she founded he Boutique d’Opera which had a mandate to provide performance opportunities for rising young singers, many of whom became known in the operatic world.
In 1964 Jacqueline received a grant from the Canadian Arts Council to study conducting in Nice with Hans Zwarowsky, a well known conductor and teacher who  worked also with Claudio Abbado and Zubin Mehta.
In 1965 she was invited by the then Manager of the Canadian Opera Company ,Herman Geiger Torel, to join the organization as repetiteur. Her contract included working with the students at the Opera School of the University of Toronto.
In 1967 she was engaged as repetiteur at the Oper Deutsche am Rhein in Dusseldorf where she was for  a few years before moving to the Hamburg Staatsoper where she met Rolf Liebermann who was General Manager and who asked her to go with him to Paris as repetiteur when he was made General Manager there. After Paris she spent time with the Bayreuth Festival.
Through these years she also returned to Canada for engagements which included as Director of the Courtney B.C. Music Center, advisor for voice for the Canada Council, and eventually Director of the Opera Studio and conductor of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra.
In 1982 she entered the Benedictine Convent of Solesmes in France as a novice. She remained there for one year before leaving for health reasons.
In 1984 she returned permanently to Montreal where she co-founded the Atelier lyrique d’Opera de Montreal. Then, in 1985 she retired to private teaching and coaching until  she closed the book on working in 2008.
Her final years were marred by failing eyesight and a loss of hearing, but she never lost her enthusiasm for music and was always happy provide insights and help for the next generation of musicians.
She received the Order of Canada in 2004.

by Lois McDonall


Tuesday, 18 August 2015

La mélodie préférée de Marc-André Roberge

Notre sondage ‘La prochaine grande mélodie’ se poursuit. Voici les choix du musicologue Marc-André Roberge. Soumettez votre vote au!

1. La barcheta – Reynaldo Hahn

La deuxième des six mélodies qui composent le cycle Venezia de Reynaldo Hahn, écrit sur des textes en dialecte vénitien, déploie au-dessus d'un accompagnement d'une grande simplicité (octaves et accords arpégés alternant entre les mains) une mélodie qui tient du miracle, particulièrement dans les longs mélismes qui concluent chacune des trois strophes. Le narrateur invite Ninetta à prendre le frais dans une petite barque et à laisser les zéphyrs l'éventer. La présence d'un narrateur masculin n'exclut pas les interprètes féminines; il faut avoir entendu Joyce DiDonato et Anna Caterina Antonacci interpréter cette mélodie qui montre l'immense pouvoir expressif du mouvement conjoint.


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This Week in Montreal: August 17 to 23

Photo: Amélie Gagné

This Week in Montreal: August 17 to 23

McGill International String Quartet Academy (MISQA)
MISQA was established in 2010. The Academy invites emeritus professors annually who share their experience with four exceptional quartets and four emerging ones. The opening concert on August 9 will be with the Miró Quartet, and the Parker Quartet will perform at the closing concert on August 22. The Grands Concerts are at Pollack Hall on August 13,14, 20 and 21 at 7 pm and at Tanna Schulich Hall on August 15 and 22, 2 pm August 9 – 22.


Cette semaine à Montréal: du 17 au 23 août

Photo: Amélie Gagné

Cette semaine à Montréal: du 17 au 23 août

Académie internationale de quatuor à cordes de McGill (MISQA)
MISQA a été fondée en 2010. L’Académie invite chaque année des professeurs émérites, qui partagent leur expérience avec quatre quatuors exceptionnels et quatre quatuors de la relève. Le Quatuor à cordes Miró est l’invité du concert d’ouverture le 9 août. Le concert de clôture présentera le 22 août le Quatuor à cordes Parker. Les grands concerts ont lieu à la salle Pollack les 13, 14, 20 et 21 à 19 h et les quatuors de la relève à la salle Tanna Schulich les 15 et 22 à 14 h. Du 9 au 22 août.


Thursday, 13 August 2015

La prochaine grande mélodie: la mélodie préférée de Danièle LeBlanc

Notre sondage "La prochaine grande mélodie" se poursuit. Danièle LeBlanc, directrice générale et artistique des Jeunesses Musicales Canada, nous partage ses choix ci-dessous. Votez au!

1. Funeral Blues – Benjamin Britten

J'adore le poème, la façon dont Britten l'a mis en musique et l'intensité dramatique qui s'en dégage. C'est très puissant tout en demeurant simple. Less is more!


"Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good."

W.H. Auden

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