La Scena Musicale

Sunday, 20 November 2011

This Week in Toronto (Nov. 21 - 27)

Conductor Andrey Boreyko (photo: Susanne Diesner)

Russian conductor Andrey Boreyko makes a welcome return to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra this week, in an eclectic program of Bernstein, Glazunov and Dvorak. Boreyko of course is no stranger to Canada, having held two separate posts, one as music director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra from 2001-6, and also as principal guest conductor of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (2000-3). Boreyko is one of the very gifted of the current generation of conductors, having received terrific notices just about everywhere. His debut with the august Cleveland Orchestra last season was highly praised. He is in town for an extended period - well, given how busy conductors are these days, you can say two weeks is extended! He is conducting Bernstein's Overture to Candide, Glazunov's Concerto for Alto Saxophone and String Orchestra (with Branford Marsalis as soloist). The centerpiece is Dvorak's much loved Symphony No. 9 "From the New World" - a very moving piece and aptly paired with Bernstein. Two performances on Nov. 22 and 24 at 8 p.m. Next week Boreyko is conducting a all-Russian program (Prokofiev and Stravinsky) with Leila Josefowicz - more about that later.
On the weekend are two performances of light classics, under the banner of Toronto Symphony Orchestra Classical Spotlight. It is an eclectic program of Haydn, Beethoven, Cimarosa and Mozart, designed for those wanting to ease themselves into the joys of classical music, with several soloists performing bite-sized pieces. For example, Alexander Serendenko is playing only the 3rd movement of the Beethoven No. 1! Of special interest to voice fans is the appearance of BC soprano Layla Claire, who is making quite a splash in the opera world. I heard her at the Queen Elisabeth Competition several years ago, and she's now in the Lindemann Young Artists Program at the Met. What a coup for her, to be prominently featured in the new documentary on James Levine, released to mark his 40th anniversary at the Met! Ms. Claire will sing the short but sweet "Alleluja" from Mozart's Exsultate jubilate - if only she's singing the whole thing! Two performances - Saturday No. 26 at 7:30 p.m., repeated on Sunday at 3 p.m. Edwin Outwater, music director of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, conducts.

Meanwhile, a couple of kilometers north of Roy Thomson Hall, the Royal Conservatory of Musicc Orchestra, featuring Canadian musicians of the future, will be giving a very interesting program on Nov. 25 8 p.m. at Koerner Hall. Uri Mayer is leading the young musicians in Bernstein's Suite from his ballet Fancy Free, Chausson's Poeme for Violin and Orchestra, and Strauss' mega-decibel Also sprach Zarathustra. I went to their season opener a couple of months ago, and heard them play Overture to Der fliegende Hollaender - a performance full of youthful enthusiasm and promise. Mayer is really picking daunting pieces for these young musicians, and they are rising to the challenge.

Now that the Canadian Opera Company fall season is over, the noon hour concerts at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre are given over to instrumentalists. On Nov. 22, Canadian pianist and Toronto resident Ricker Choi is playing Brahms Six Pieces for Piano Op. 118, Scriabin Sonata No. 5 and Chopin Ballade No. 1, a well balanced and familiar program. Be sure to show up at least 30 minutes to an hour to be assured of a decent seat, but then there's always standing room.

Just because the COC is in hiatus doesn't mean there is no opera. In fact, if you can forgo an orchestra, Opera In Concert is presenting Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots, an opera that I believe have never been staged in Canada. OIC must be commended for taking this piece on - with five acts and ballet, this is a marathon, but I can only assume it will be cut. [I just checked the OIC website and they are doing it in two acts!] In the hands of great singers, this is a wonderful work. Opera fans will be familiar with the fabled live performance of Sutherland, Corelli and Simionato from La Scala, sung in Italian - as Gli Ugonotti! The OIC performance will have soprano Laura Whalen and tenor Edgar Ernesto Ramirez as Marguerite and Raoul. Lesley Ann Bradley is the zwischenfach Valentine. Pianist Michael Rose will have the very daunting task of playing this gigantic piece - toi toi toi to all the artists!

Another important vocal event is the Aldeburgh Connection's The Great Comet: The Extraordinary Life and Music of Franz Liszt. Unfortunately this falls on exactly the same time as the Meyerbeer - on Nov. 27 2:30 pm at Walter Hall. Soloists are soprano Joni Henson, tenor Colin Ainsworth and baritone James Westman, with as usual Stephen Ralls and Bruce Ubukata at the piano. AC is known for intelligent and thought-provoking programming, so it is going to be difficult to decide!



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