La Scena Musicale

Saturday, 24 March 2012

This Week in Toronto (Mar. 26 - Apr. 1)

Tenor Michael Schade (r.) and baritone Luca Pisaroni (l.) at Roy Thomson Hall Duo Recital

With the demise of the Roy Thomson Hall International Vocal Series at the end of last season, a replacement of sorts was offered to subscribers - a short series of three shows: Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra, pianist Yundi Li and the duo recital of tenor Michael Schade and baritone Thomas Quasthoff. As is often the case with performing artists, expect the unexpected. Yundi postponed his recital to a date yet to be determined, and a month ago, it was announced that baritone Thomas Quasthoff has retired and as a result, all upcoming engagements cancelled. In his place is rising Italian baritone Luca Pisaroni. Having heard him as Guglielmo in Cosi fan tutte, I must say he is an excellent replacement. This recital takes place at Roy Thomson Hall on Friday March 30th at 8 p.m. Program details at Interesting that this is not just a program thrown together at the last minute, as the two are doing quite a few duets that require extensive rehearsals. The audience will love the cluster of Viennese bon bons - a Schade specialty - at the end. Justus Zeyen is the collaborative pianist.

Former Toronto Symphony Orchestra music director Jukka Pekka Saraste is returning for a mixed program of Brahms Symphony No. 3, Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1 and Sibelius' late tone poem Tapiola, a dramatic and brooding piece that doesn't get performed all that often. Pekka Kuusisto is the violinist in the Prokofiev. Two shows - Thurs. March 29 and Saturday March 31, both at 8 p.m. There will be an intermission chat, and hopefully it will be with Maestro Saraste. His tenure in Toronto wasn't the happiest, but it's always good that he returns occasionally to our city and our orchestra!

On March 29 at 1:30 p.m., the Women's Musical Club of Toronto is presenting the Cecilia String Quartet. This fast-rising ensemble won First Prize at the 2010 Banff International String Quartet Competition, the first Canadian win since the St. Lawrence Quartet twenty years ago. CSQ is currently the Graduate Resident String Quartet at the Royal Conservatory of Music here in Toronto. On the program is works by Mozart, Shostakovich, Beethoven, Puccini's wonderful "Crisantemi" that the composer later reused in act 4 of Manon Lescaut, and a work by Canadian composer Ana Sokolovic. Both the Cecilia String Quartet and Ana Sokolovic have been featured on the cover of La Scena Musicale and The Music Scene. The concert takes place at Walter Hall.

As the season finale to its 2012 New Wave Composers Festival, the Esprit Orchestra is presenting a concert with the intriguing title, Turned On By Texture, featuring the music of Xenakis, Somers, Jimmie LeBlanc, and Adam Scime, under the baton of Alex Pauk. It takes place at Koerner Hall on Thursday Mar. 29 at 8 p.m. There is a pre-concert talk at 7:15 by pianist Jamie Parker. I find that with new music, it is absolutely imperative to learn everything possible about the works beforehand to get the maximum enjoyment out of the performance. The website mentions that Adam Scime's Mirage is "top selected work from Esprit's orchestral reading session of scores composed by students of the University of Toronto Faculty of Music. Also featured is the announcement of the Ontario Emerging Composer Award organized by the Canadian Music Centre."

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra had its 30th anniversary gala performance of Hercules at Koerner Hall back in January. Now to celebrate its renowned Chamber Choir, it is presenting Choral Spectacular: Celebrating 30 Years on Mar. 29 at its usual venue, Trinity St. Paul Centre. On the program are works by Bach, Handel, Rameau, Martin, Poulenc, Taverner, and Whitacre. Under the direction of Ivars Taurins, there will be four performances at Trinity St. Paul on Mar. 29, 30, and 31 at 8 p.m. and a matinee on Sunday Apr. 1 at 3:30 p.m. As well, there will be a performance on Tuesday Mar. 27 at the George Weston Recital Hall in North York.

Last but definitely not least is the concert by the Toronto Philharmonia Orchestra on Thursday Mar. 29 8 p.m. at the George Weston Recital Hall. Uri Mayer leads the forces in a program of Bach, Stravinsky, and the fabulous Dvorak Cello Concerto Op. 104 in B minor. Cellist Winona Zelenka is the guest soloist.



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