La Scena Musicale

Monday, 14 November 2011

The Theatre of Early Music’s Glorious Gloria

 By Hannah Rahimi 

As part of the Montreal Bach Festival, a large audience gathered on Sunday afternoon to hear the Theatre of Early Music performing at the majestic Église Saint-Léon de Westmount. The concert opened with the ethereal voice of Daniel Taylor floating over the crowd from the back balcony of the church. He proceeded to lead the TEM choir in a series of moving choral works, beginning with a traditional Basque air, The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came, and ending with John Tavener’s The Lamb, a contemporary work that combines homophonic simplicity with exquisite moments of dissonance.

Montreal-based cellist Matt Haimovitz displayed his tremendous virtuosity, rich tone and enormous musicality in performances of Vivaldi’s Concerto in B minor and Concerto in G major. Although the church’s thundering acoustics swallowed up some of the more intricate passages, Haimovitz and the small TEM orchestra managed to convey Vivaldi’s fire and lyricism in this compelling performance.

Concluding the concert, the orchestra and choir joined together to present a passionate rendition of Vivaldi’s Gloria. Under Taylor’s guidance, the choir expressed the jubilant highs and simmering lows of this stunning religious work, enhanced by the sensitive and spirited playing of the orchestra. Sopranos Agnes Zsigovics and Hélène Brunet enchanted the audience with their beautifully blended duet in Laudamus te. Zsigovics also shone in Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, naturally shaping each phrase with her clear, round voice, accompanied by the elegant, lush playing of oboist Matthew Jennejohn.  

This concert was the perfect antidote to a grey Sunday in November, breathing joyous life into sacred works of music to warm us as winter sets in. The Montreal Bach Festival continues until November 20.

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Sunday, 13 November 2011

This Week in Toronto (Nov. 14 - 20)

The Gryhpon Trio (l. to r.) Roman Borys, cello; Annalee Patipatanakoon, violin; Jamie Parker, piano)

This week is a bit strange, as many interesting concerts fall simultaneously on Nov. 17. The second and final week of Lang Lang's residency at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra begins on November 17 when LL plays Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 2, and ends on Nov. 19 with the "biggie", Piano Concerto No. 5 "Emperor." Also on the program both nights are Chinese composer Bright Sheng's piece with the intriguing title, Tibetan Swing. Sheng is an accomplished composer who infuses western musical idioms with eastern sensibilities. Some years ago, I saw his opera, Madame Mao, at the Santa Fe Opera. An acerbic yet lyrical commentary on recent Chinese history, it was a riveting evening in the theatre. According to the program notes on the TSO website, Tibetan Swing is "based on a typical Tibetan dance rhythm, trying to evoke both the beauty and the savagery of a particular mountain dance, an expressive dance well known for swinging the long sleeves of its traditional costumes and for its rhythmic foot stomps." The other piece on the program is Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, conducted by Peter Oundjian.

On Nov. 17 8 p.m. at the Jane Mallett Theatre, Music Toronto is presenting the Gryphon Trio in Beethoven's Piano Trio in C Op. 1, No. 3. Also on the program is Anton Arensky's Piano Trio in D Minot, Op. 32, and the Canadian premiere of William Jordan's Owl Song.

University of Toronto Faculty of Music is presenting a free noon hour concert on Nov. 17 at Walter hall, Andiamo a casa, a program of operatic music for multiple pianos, played by members of the faculty, pianists Mia Bach and Andrea Grant. If you are one of those who love opera if only there's no singing (!), this is your chance - the two pianists will play transcriptions from Ernani, L'Italiana in Algeri, Norma, Lucia and Aida.

On Friday Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. at the Glenn Gould Studio, Sinfonia Toronto is presenting Gems Old and New, a program of two well known pieces (Mozart and Beethoven) with two new works (Teehan and Hatzis). Pianist Ratimir Martinovic and bass clarinetist Jeff Reilly are the soloists.

If you like your chamber music with a modern bent, try Art of Time Ensemble's Songbook 6 with Steve Page, arrangements of popular songs by Harry Nilsson, Scott Walker, Randy Newman, Elvis Costello, Dan Mangan and others, interpreted by singer/songwriter Steven Page. Nov. 18 and 19 8 p.m. at the Enwave Theatre, Harbourfront.