La Scena Musicale

Monday, 26 November 2012

This Week in Toronto (Nov. 26 - Dec. 1)

TSO Conductor Laureate Sir Andrew Davis returns to conduct Strauss (Photo: Dario Acosta)

November has been an extraordinarily busy month musically in Toronto, and this last week is no exception. One of Canada's favourite classical music conductors, Sir Andrew Davis, is return to his old haunts to conduct more Strauss. Sir Andrew is of course no stranger to Toronto, having served for many years as the music director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and now its Conductor Laureate. Sir Andrew has also become a favourite at the Canadian Opera Company the last two seasons. On November 28 at Roy Thomson Hall, Sir Andrew is conducting Strauss' Don Quixote, paired with Mendelssohn's Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream, at the unusual start time of 6:30 pm. This is part of the Afterworks Concert Series, the rationale being - "why fight the rush hour traffic, hear some great music instead!"  Given the time limitations, this event is shorter than the full length concert. On Thursday 8 pm and Sunday Dec. 1 at 7:30 pm, in addition to the Strauss and Mendelssohn is Canadian piano sensation Jan Lisiecki playing the Schumann Piano Concerto. Lisiecki is now on the roster of Deutsche Grammophon and he has demonstrated at a young age that he is an artist to be reckoned with. Joining Davis and Lisiecki are violist Teng Li and cellist Joseph Johnson. This is my favourite event of the week.

Canadian piano sensation Jan Lisiecki plays the Schumann Piano Concerto with the TSO

At the grand age of 87, pianist-pedagogue Menahem Pressler is still going strong. He is of course the pianist and founding member of the Beaux Arts Trio. One of the great master musicians of our time, Pressler has left an indelible imprint not just on our concert stages but also in the development of many of the great young Canadian pianists. He is in town this week to give a masterclass of chamber musicians that is open to the public, on Tuesday Nov. 27 from 10 am to noon at Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building on the campus of the University of Toronto.  On Monday Nov. 26, he joins the Cecilia String Quartet, the U of T Faculty of Music Ensemble-in-Residence, for an evening of music making. On the program are piano quintets by Schumann and Brahms.

Menahem Pressler is in town for masterclasses and a performance with the Cecilia String Quartet 

Cecilia String Quartet 

The Green Door Cabaret under the artistic direction of Robert Missen opens its 2012 season with a concert to benefit PAL, or the Performing Arts Lodge. Located on the Esplanade in downtown Toronto near the Sony Centre, PAL has long been the residence of retired musicians. Then as now, it housed many famous musicians, including at one time the great Canadian contralto Maureen Forrester. The headliner for this show is the premier Canadian cabaret singer Judith Lander, who is appearing with fellow cabaret artist Michael Hughes. Pianist/songwriter David Warrack, who wrote the lyrics and music to Interpretations of a Life, an album of very moving songs for Maureen Forrester and the two went on tour in the 1990s, is also going to be performing. The event takes place on Nov. 28 7:30 pm at the Lower Ossington Theatre.

Cabaret singer Judith Lander and pianist/songwriter David Warrack are appearing in the Opening Night Gala of the Green Door Cabaret to benefit PAL (Performing Arts Lodge)

Israeli conductor Yoav Talmi, Principal Guest Conductor of the Israel Chamber Orchestra in Tel Aviv and Conductor Emeritus of the Quebec Symphony, is in town this week to lead the Royal Conservatory Orchestra in an interesting program that includes L'Arlesienne (Bizet), Roman Carnival Overture no. 9 (Berlioz), and the demanding Shostakovich Symphony no. 5 in D minor. The concert takes place on Nov. 30 8 pm at Koerner Hall.  Before the performance, students and faculty members of the RCM Glenn Gould School will be performing a Prelude program of chamber pieces in the lobby starting at 6:45 pm.

Conductor Yoav Talmi leads the Royal Conservatory Orchestra in Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5

A very interesting event this week is the Second Annual Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio Competition.  When the predecessor of this Competition first started three years ago in honour of the late Canadian baritone Louis Quilico, it was an "internal competition" of COC Ensemble Studio members. Last year was the first time when it was opened to external candidates.  Winners, at the discretion of the COC, may join the Ensemble next season.  This year, the event is already sold out, but it doesn't hurt to give the COC a call - I understand there might still be standing room spaces available. There will be ten candidates in the competition, a few names familiar to Toronto area music fans.  Two names stand out for me - bass baritone Gordon Bintner (Regina, SK) and tenor Andrew Haji (London, ON). These two young artists are outstanding and will have excellent careers ahead of them.  Other participants are mezzo Charlotte Burrage (Woodstock ON), soprano Aviva Fortunata (Calgary AB), baritone Clarence Frazer (Toronto ON), mezzo Danielle MacMillan (Toronto ON), bass Nathan Keoughan (Charlottetown PE), tenor Michael Marino (London ON), soprano Lara Secord-Haid (Winnipeg MB) and soprano Kelsey Vicary (Niagara Falls ON). Artistic Administrator Roberto Mauro and COC Music Administrator Sandra Gavinchuk and soprano/voice teacher and former COC Ensemble Studio member Wendy Nielsen are on the jury panel, headed by COC General Director Alexander Neef.

On Nov. 30 8 pm at the Metropolitan United Church, the august Elmer Iseler Singers will be presenting Handel's Messiah, the first of the season of many, many more Messiahs to come! It features a fine quartet of soloists in soprano Leslie Fagan, mezzo Lynne McMurtry, tenor Colin Ainsworth, and baritone Geoffrey Sirett, under the direction of Lydia Adams. This will get you in the mood for the Holidays!

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