La Scena Musicale

Monday, 29 April 2013

Cette semaine à Montréal : le 29 avril au 5 mai

Création littéraire et musicale de Nicolas Gilbert à l'ECM+
Sous la direction artistique de Véronique Lacroix, l'ECM+ propose un programme fantaisiste : le Concerto de chambre d'Alban Berg et Vertiges, une création de Nicolas Gilbert. Aux solistes Jimmy Brière, piano, et Jean-Sébastien Roy, violon, se joignent quatre acrobates et le narrateur Jean Marchand. Salle Pierre-Mercure, 1er mai, 19 h 30.
- Renée Banville

Quatrix et ses forêts de résonances
Formé de deux pianistes (Jean-Fabien Schneider et Irina Krasnyanskaya) et deux percussionnistes (Corinne René et Julien Compagne), Quatrix présente des « classiques » du répertoire, des commandes d'œuvres et des arrangements musicaux pour cette formation peu usitée. Conservatoire de musique, 4 mai, 20 h. 514-873-4031
- Renée Banville
Cette semaine à la Chapelle
Le 5 mai à 15 h 30, le pianiste Mathieu Gaudet présente un programme d'œuvres de Bach et Schumann.           
- Renée Banville
Un trio au Ladies' Morning Musical Club
Le 5 mai à 15 h 30, on entendra le Trio Setzer-Finckel-Wu Han. Le violoniste Philip Setzer et le violoncelliste David Finckel se produisent ensemble, au sein du quatuor Emerson, depuis plus de 30 ans. Wu Han et Finckel jouent en duo piano/violoncelle depuis presque aussi longtemps. Réunis, ces trois grands artistes offrent un ensemble de très haut niveau. Salle Pollack.
- Renée Banville

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This week in Montreal: April 29 – May 5

Literary and Musical Premiere at ECM+
Under the artistic direction of Véronique Lacroix, ECM+ offers a visionary program: Alban Berg’s Chamber Concerto and a premiere by Nicolas Gilbert, Vertiges. Among the soloists are Jimmy Brière, piano, and Jean-Sébastien Roy, violin, as well as four acrobats and narrator Jean Marchand. Salle Pierre-Mercure, May 1 at 7:30 pm.
- Renée Banville
Quatrix and the Forests of Resonance (“Forêts de résonances”)
Composed of two pianists (Jean-Fabien Schneider and Irina Krasnyanskaya) and two percussionists (Corinne René and Julien Compagne), Quatrix presents the “classics” of the repertoire, comissioned works, and musical arrangements for this little-used formation. Conservatoire de Musique, May 4, 8 pm. 514-873-4031
- Renée Banville
This Week at the Chapelle Bon-Pasteur
On May 5 at 3:30 pm, pianist Mathieu Gaudet presents a program of works by Bach and Schumann.
- Renée Banville
A Trio at the Ladies’ Morning Musical Club
The Setzer-Finckel-Wu Han Trio perform on May 5 at 3:30 pm. Violinist Phillip Setzer and cellist David Finckel have appeared together as part of the Emerson Quartet for more than 30 years. Wu Han and Finckel have been playing as a piano/cello duo for nearly as long. United, these three great artists make a very high-quality trio. Pollack Hall.
- Renée Banville

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Sunday, 28 April 2013

This Week in Toronto (April 29 - May 5)

Stephane Deneve conducts all French program at TSO

Stephane Deneve, the maestro with the wild hair, is back with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, this time in three performances of an all-French program - Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos, Debussy's familiar Prelude a l'apres-midi d'une faune, and the even more popular Symphonie fantastique by Berlioz.  Pianists are Frank Braley and Eric LeSage. May 1, 2, and 4 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall

Mezzo Krisztina Szabo (photo: Bo Huang)

As part of the Canadian Opera Company's Free Concert Series, the Queen of Puddings Music Theatre, under the co-direction of Dairine Ni Mheadhra and John Hess, will present Inspired by Lorca. It features La Selva de los relojes (The Forest of Clocks), a new vocal chamber work by composer Chris Paul Harman, based on poetry by Spaniard Frederico Garcia Lorca. The soloist is mezzo Krisztina Szabo. This concert marks the final offering by the Queen of Puddings Music Theatre's twenty-year run. The company officially concludes operations on August 31. In a press release, the co-artistic directors explains:  "With Queen of Puddings, we've achieved what we set out to do, which was to commission and produce original Canadian opera to a high artistic standard, and to develop an international profile for this work. In this current season the company is thriving...We want to conclude in a year like this, which is full of artistic pleasure, highlights, and fulfillment of our goals..."  Any time a performing arts group bids farewell, it is always with some sadness. So supporters of Queen of Puddings should do well to show up in force on Tuesday April 30. The other presentation of the COC Free Concert Series this week is Serenade Francaise, on Thursday. The COC Ensemble Studio members sing songs by Ravel, Poulenc and Milhaud.  No program details at the moment so I don't know who are actually singing. Several of the Ensemble singers are graduating this spring so watch out for their farewell concerts in May. Given that these shows are free and highly popular, be sure to line up an hour ahead for a seat. Both concerts at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, Four Seasons Centre.

Tenor Stephen Costello is Edgardo in COC's Lucia di Lammermoor (Photo:

If you haven't already, be sure to catch the two Canadian Opera Company productions currently onstage at the Four Seasons Centre. I attended the third performance of Lucia di Lammermoor on Friday and was totally blown away by the Edgardo of American tenor Stephen Costello.  I had actually seen his Edgardo once before, four years ago at Opera de Montreal. He was indisposed at the time so we didn't get to hear him at his best. This time around he's amazing - what a voice! Fabulous, ringing tone, great high notes, and handsome stage presence. His Edgardo is a bit on the scruffy side, deliberately I am sure to go with the Alden "concept" production. Performance on Tuesday April 30 at 7:30 pm.  Salome is scheduled for May 1 and 4.
Soprano Sophie Daneman (Photo: Askonas Holt)

The very lovely voice of soprano Sophie Daneman is the soloist (sharing the stage with tenor and Tafelmusik audience favourite Rufus Muller) in Tafelmusik's A Handel Celebration this week. Ivars Taurins leads the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra forces in arias from Solomon, Esther, Judas Maccabeus, Theodora, Semele, Hercules and others. Five performances May 1 to 5 at the Trinity-St. Paul's Centre. There will be one performance at the George Weston Recital Hall in North York on May 7.

Violinist James Ehnes (photo: Benjamin Ealovega)

One of the most beloved of Canadian classical musicians, violinist James Ehnes, will be the soloist in the 115th Anniversary Concert of the Women's Musical Club of Toronto on May 2 at Koerner Hall.  I think this is the oldest concert presenter in Toronto, if not in Canada.  Ehnes is joined by another Canadian icon, baritone Russell Braun and his wife, collaborative pianist Carolyn Maule. Together they will perform music of Bach, Beethoven, Paganini, Vaughan Williams, Butterworth and Barber. Also there will be a world premiere of a work by John Estacio. This is an important event of the spring season.  Over the years, WMCT has presented many wonderful artists and it remains a vital force in the musical life of our city.

Baritone Russell Braun and pianist Carolyn Maule (Photo:

The Canadian Children's Opera Company, under the artistic direction of Ann Cooper Gay, is reviving Laura's Cow: the Legend of Laura Secord, by Errol Gay and Michael Patrick Albano. This work received its premiere as part of last year's Luminato Festival in Toronto. I saw it then and found it enormously entertaining, suitable for the young and the young-at-heart.  This time around, it will be given two performances on May 3 and 5 7:30 pm at the Enwave Theatre at Harbourfront.  Ann Cooper Gay conducts and Michael Patrick Albano directs.

Offenbach fans can look forward to the Toronto Operetta Theatre's presentation of La vie Parisienne on April 30 8 pm at the Jane Mallett Theatre. It's very unlikely that this frothy piece will get a staged production around these quarters any time soon - never mind it is a staple in the repertoire in France and the Germanic countries - so this is an opportunity to experience its magic.  It stars soprano Elizabeth DeGrazia, mezzo Lauren Segal, and tenor Christopher Mayell. Larry Beckwith conducts, and the director as usual is Guillermo Silva-Marin.   Additional performances on May 2, 3, 4, 5, the last one a matinee.

The artists-driven Opera by Request is presenting Janacek's masterpiece, Jenufa on Sunday May 5th at 2 pm.  During the time of Richard Bradshaw, the COC regularly presented works of the Czech composer.  Productions such as Jenufa, Makropoulos Case, Katya Kabanova, Cunning Little Vixen and From the House of the Dead (this last one Bradshaw did not live to conduct it) were artistic triumphs even if not always box office successes. Given that Janacek is no longer high on the repertoire list at the COC, here is a chance to hear this beautiful opera.  College Street United Church (at College and Bathurst).

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Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Cette semaine à Montréal : 22 – 28 avril

Des madrigaux dramatiques de Claudio Monteverdi par Viva Voce
En collaboration avec Pallade Musica, l’ensemble vocal Viva Voce présente le samedi 27 avril 2013 un programme de madrigaux dramatiques de Claudio Monteverdi. La soliste invitée sera la soprano Shannon Mercer. Ce concert se déroulera à la salle Redpath de l’Université McGill à compter de 19 h 30.
- Daniel Turp

Les Boréades et les Idées Heureuses - concert de quatre nations 
Les deux ensembles baroques se réunissent pour présenter, sous la direction artistique de Natalie Michaud, un panorama du répertoire composé il y a environ 400 ans. Le conférencier Georges Leroux mettra en lumière la diversité musicale de quatre pays : l'Italie, la France, l'Angleterre et l'Allemagne. Salle Bourgie, 28 avril, 15 h. Conférence à 14 h.
- Renée Banville

Deuxième festival annuel a cappella
La deuxième édition de MTLacappella, le festival montréalais de musique a cappella, regroupe, l'instant d'un jour, 17 chœurs réunissant 276 chanteurs et chanteuses des quatre coins de l'Amérique du Nord qui interprètent un répertoire des plus variés allant de la chanson française aux Beatles, de Bach à Kanye West. Plus de 400 personnes y ont assisté l'année dernière. Cette année, le festival se déroulera dans deux salles : Sala Rossa et Casa del Popolo. Le prix d'entrée est 15 $ pour la journée. Dimanche le 28 avril, de 14h30 à 22h.
- Wah Keung Chan

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Tuesday, 23 April 2013

This week in Montreal: April 22 – 28

Dramatic Madrigals of Claudio Monteverdi by Viva Voce
In collaboration with Pallade Musica, ensemble Viva Voce presents a program of Claudio Monteverdi’s dramatic madrigals on Saturday, April 27. Shannon Mercer will be the guest soloist. The concert takes place at McGill University’s Redpath Hall, starting at 7:30 pm.
- Daniel Turp
Les Boréades and les Idées Heureuses – Concert of Four Countries
Under the artistic direction of Nathalie Michaud, two baroque ensembles unite to present a panoramic repertoire composed 400 years ago. Speaker Georges Leroux will highlight the musical diversity of four countries: Italy, France, England and Germany. Bourgie Hall, April 28, 3 pm. Conference (French) at 2pm.
- Renée Banville
Second Annual A Cappella Festival
For its second edition, MTLacappella, Montreal’s one-day a cappella music festival assembles 17 vocal ensembles, comprising 276 singers, from across North America in varied repertoire from French chansons to The Beatles, and from Bach to Kanye West. Last year, over 400 attended. This year, the festival expands to two venues, Sala Rossa and Casa del Popolo. Tickets are $15 and are sold as all-access day passes. Sunday, April 28, day and evening.
- Wah Keung Chan

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Sunday, 21 April 2013

This Week in Toronto (April 22 - 28)

Soprano Erika Sunnegardh in the title role of COC's Salome (Photo: Michael Cooper)

The Canadian Opera Company's spring season is in full swing, with two of its three productions currently on stage.  I attended the opening of Salome yesterday.  When this Atom Egoyan production was first seen in Fall of 1996, it created an absolute sensation. I thought at the time that Egoyan's cutting-edge vision of melding filmic elements with operatic stagecraft in this work was truly ground-breaking. Now fifteen years later, it has lost none of its freshness. To my eyes and ears, this revival is even better than the 1996 premiere and the 2002 revival.  Given that it's the same production (with minor tweaking by Egoyan), the main difference is musical - singing and the orchestra.  Swedish-American soprano Erika Sunnegardh surpassed both Ljuba Kazarnovskaya and Helen Field vocally and dramatically as the most ideal Salome, combining a blazing high register with a physique du role that's perfect as the Judean princess, one that combines newly awaken sexuality with child-like naivete. German baritone Martin Gantner, a fine singer whom I heard a number of times at the Bavarian State Opera, is an intense and charismatic Jochanaan. His voice is more on the lyric side, so it would be interesting to compare him with bass-baritone Alan Held who takes over later in the run. Canadian tenor Richard Margison is terrific in the character role of Herod; and it is wonderful to hear German mezzo Hanna Schwarz on the stage of the COC. Wagner fans will never forget her as a supremely sexy Fricka in the centennial Ring at Bayreuth directed by Patrice Chereau in 1976. The 69 year old mezzo remains an evergreen and an operatic marvel. I also loved the plangent tenor of American Nathaniel Peake as Narraboth.    COC Music Director Johannes Debus led the Orchestra in a magnificent reading of the incredible Strauss score. This revival is top on my list of recommendations - don't miss it! Seven more performances, the next one on April 27th at the unusual time of 4:30 pm.  Meanwhile, the recently opened Lucia di Lammermoor stars the fabulous Anna Christy in the title role, partnered by tenor Stephen Costello as Edgardo. They are two of the most exciting young American singers, and if you like bel canto - and who doesn't? - be sure to catch a performance with these two.

Legendary primatologist Jane Goodall at Roy Thomson Hall (Photo:

For me, the most significant non-musical event this week is the appearance of the great primatologist Jane Goodall at Roy Thomson Hall, as part of the Unique Lives and Experiences series. I first heard her back in the early 70's in my previous life as an academic, and then again several times in her visits to Toronto and elsewhere.  Her research and publications on the Chimpanzees at Gombe continues to inspire new generations of young people and raise awareness on the destruction of the natural habitat of the Great Apes due to human encroachment and illegal trade. She's one of the most inspirational speakers I've ever heard, and I look forward to hearing her once again. Wednesday April 24th 7:30 pm.

Conductor Thomas Dausgaard (Photo: Ulla Carin Ekblom)

Pianist Garrick Ohlsson, one of the most significant keyboard artists of our time, is making a welcome return to Toronto, together with another frequent guest and TO audience favourite, conductor Thomas Dausgaard. He is conducting the Swedish Chamber Orchestra in an all-Beethoven program at Koerner Hall on April 28th 3 pm. Ohlsson is the soloist in Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Op. 58. Also on the program is Symphony No. 3 in E- flat Op. 55 "Eroica".

Pianist Garrick Ohlsson

The Canadian Opera Company's Free Concert Series is offering We's the Bye's, an interesting noon hour concert featuring three singers from Corner Brook, Newfoundland - the brothers Michael and Peter Barrett, and tenor Adam Luther. At the keyboard is collaborative pianist Sandra Horst.  Concert at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre on Tuesday April 23. No program details available at this time. On April 25, the recently formed Arkadas Quartet, winner of the Galimir Chamber Music Competition at the University of Toronto, will perform string quartet pieces by Ravel and Beethoven. Be sure to show up an hour ahead to ensure a seat.

The celebrated Aldeburgh Connection is rapidly approaching the end of its farewell season. You can still catch them at Britten Festival of Song: The Canticles, on April 26th 8 pm at the Glenn Gould Studio. Solists are countertenor Daniel Taylor, tenor Benjamin Butterfield, and baritone Alexander Dobson. Stephen Ralls and Bruce Ubukata are at the keyboard. This is the first of three concerts that make up the Festival. The others are on May 7 and 26.

On April 28 2 pm at the Glenn Gould Studio, Off Centre Music Salon is presenting a concert with a twist - Celebrating Philanthropists in Music. Baritone Giles Tomkins, mezzo Lauren Segal, violinist Jacques Israelievitch, and accordionist Joseph Macerollo join pianists Inna Perkis and Boris Zarankin in a concert celebrating the generous donors who have contributed to Off Centre Music Salon.  UPDATE: I was just told by publicist Vince Ciarlo that baritone Peter McGillivray has taken over from Giles Tomkins.  It appears that the Off Centre website has not updated to reflect this change.... Tsk tsk!

Also on April 28, Mooredale Concerts is presenting Pierrot Moonstruck, a program of song, piano, poetry and mime designed for young people ages 6 to 15. Soprano Allison Angelo, mime Olga Primak, poetry reader Larry Bent, and pianists Kathleen van Mourik and Charles Foreman perform music by Debussy, Ravel, Faure, Schumann, Chopin, Grieg and Poulenc. Time is 3:15 pm at Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building, University of Toronto.

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Monday, 15 April 2013

This week in Montreal: April 15 - 21

Opera de Montreal’s Atelier Lyric Performs a Menotti Double Bill
For its annual production, the Atelier Lyric at the Opera de Montreal presents two one-act operas by Gian Carlo Menotti: The Old Maid and the Thief and Amahl and the Night Visitors. Musical direction is provided by Robin Wheeler and staging by Martine Beaulne. This production is in collaboration with the Canadian National Theatre School. Four performances are planned and will take place at the Monument National, April 13, 16, 18 and 20 at 7:30 pm. 
- Daniel Turp

Chants Libres: Oper’Actuel 2013 – Works in Progress, 4th edition
Directed by Pauline Vaillancourt, Chants Libres will offer excepts from four operas still in progress. Composers and librettists Pierre Michaud, Marie-Pierre Brasset (Quebec), Kristin Norderval (New York) and Nikos Harizanos (Greece) were selected following a competition in 2012. With the participation of the Atelier de musique contemporaine (Contemporary music workshop) and the Atelier de musique de chambre (Chamber music workshop) of the University of Montreal as well as the ensemble Les Salons de l’ombre jaune. Maison de la culture Frontenac, April 19 at 8 pm and April 20 at 4 pm.  
- Renée Banville

Jaap ter Linden and David Breitman visit Arion
Experience the passion of Mozart and Haydn at Passion grandeur nature (Life-sized Passion)! The faithful conductor and cellist Jaap ter Linden (Netherlands) and the famed pianofortiste David Breitman (USA) join the orchestra. Bourgie Hall, April 19 at 8 pm, April 20 at 4 pm, and April 21 at 2 pm.  
- Renée Banville

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Cette semaine à Montréal : 15 – 21 avril

Deux menotti par l’Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal
Pour sa production annuelle, l’Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal présentera deux opéras en un acte de Giancarlo Menotti : The Old Maid and the Thief (La vieille dame et le voleur) et Amahl and the Night Visitors (Amahl et les visiteurs du soir). La direction musicale sera assurée par Robin Wheeler et la mise en scène a été confiée à Martine Beaulne. Cette production est réalisée en collaboration avec l’École nationale de Théâtre du Canada. Quatre représentations sont prévues et auront lieu au Monument national les 13, 16, 18 et 20 avril 2013 à 19 h 30.
- Daniel Turp

Chants Libres : Oper'Actuel 2013 - Works in Progress, 4e édition
Dirigé par Pauline Vaillancourt, Chants Libres propose des extraits de quatre opéras en cours d'écriture. Les compositeurs et librettistes Pierre Michaud, Marie-Pierre Brasset (Québec), Kristin Norderval (New York) et Nikos Harizanos (Grèce) ont été sélectionnés à la suite d’un concours en 2012. Avec la participation de l'Atelier de musique contemporaine et de l'Atelier de musique de chambre de l'Université de Montréal et de l'ensemble Les Salons de l'ombre jaune. Maison de la culture Frontenac, 19 avril, 20 h / 20 avril, 16 h.
- Renée Banville

Jaap ter Linden et David Breitman chez Arion
Passion grandeur nature vous fera vivre la passion de Mozart et Haydn. Un fidèle, le chef et violoncelliste Jaap ter Liden (Pays-Bas) et le réputé pianofortiste David Breitman (États-Unis) se joignent à l'orchestre. Salle Bourgie, 19 avril, 20 h / 20 avril, 16 h / 21 avril, 14 h.
- Renée Banville

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Monday, 8 April 2013

Cette semaine à Montréal : 8 – 14 avril

Rencontres virtuoses à la Chapelle
Le 8 avril, Jonathan Crow et Andrew Wan, premiers violons de l'OSM et du TSO, raconteront l'histoire du duo de violon au 20e et 21e siècle. Le 12 avril, l'Ensemble Transmission invite la percussionniste Françoise Rivalland pour une soirée Aperghis, à laquelle participeront trois jeunes musiciens de la relève.
- Renée Banville

Deux menotti par l’Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal
Pour sa production annuelle, l’Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal présentera deux opéras en un acte de Giancarlo Menotti : The Old Maid and the Thief (La vieille dame et le voleur) et Amahl and the Night Visitors (Amahl et les visiteurs du soir). La direction musicale sera assurée par Robin Wheeler et la mise en scène a été confiée à Martine Beaulne. Cette production est réalisée en collaboration avec l’École nationale de Théâtre du Canada. Quatre représentations sont prévues et auront lieu au Monument national les 13, 16, 18 et 20 avril 2013 à 19 h 30. 
- Daniel Turp

Un quatuor au Ladies' Morning Musical Club
Le 14 avril à 15 h 30, le Quatuor à cordes Keller fera ses débuts au LMMC. Fondé à Budapest en 1987, l'ensemble se distingue par sa programmation inhabituelle. Salle Pollack. 
- Renée Banville

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This week in Montréal: April 8 – 14

Virtuosos at the Chapelle Bon-Pasteur

On April 8, Jonathan Crow and Andrew Wan, first violins at the OSM and TSO, recount the 20th- and 21st-century history of the violin duo. On April 12, the Ensemble Transmission invite percussionist François Rivalland for an evening of Aperghis, in which three young upcoming musicians will participate. - Renée Banville

Opera de Montreal’s Atelier Lyric Performs a Menotti Double Bill
For its annual production, the Atelier Lyric at the Opera de Montreal presents two one-act operas by Gian Carlo Menotti: The Old Maid and the Thief and Amahl and the Night Visitors. Musical direction is provided by Robin Wheeler and staging by Martine Beaulne. This production is in collaboration with the Canadian National Theatre School. Four performances are planned and will take place at the Monument National, April 13, 16, 18 and 20 at 7:30 pm. - Daniel Turp

A Quartet at the Ladies’ Morning Musical Club
April 14 at 3:30 pm, the Keller string Quartet makes its debut at the LMMC. Founded in 1987 in Budapest, the ensemble distinguishes itself by its unusual repertoire. Pollack Hall.
- Renée Banville

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Sunday, 7 April 2013

This Week in Toronto (April 8 - 21)

Anna Christy as Lucia in the ENO production which is coming to the COC (photo: Clive Barda)

The eagerly anticipated spring season of the Canadian Opera Company is finally upon us. The first of three operas opens on Wednesday April 17th 7:30 pm at the Four Seasons Centre. The second performance is on Saturday April 20th at 7:30 pm. It's the ever-popular Lucia di Lammermoor. This Donizetti warhorse was seen actually not all that long ago at the COC when it was staged for Russian soprano Marina Mescheriakova, a frequent visiting artist a dozen years ago. This time around, it is the wonderful American soprano Anna Christy, whose voice I first heard in Santa Fe some years ago. Edgardo is American tenor Stephen Costello, and Enrico is American baritone Brian Mulligan. Stephen Lord conducts the COC Orchestra. The production comes from the English National Opera directed by David Alden. Of course his brother Christopher has directed a number of productions here, most recently Die Fledermaus and La clemenza di Tito, but I believe this is David Alden's first time at the COC. The Alden Brothers are known for unconventional takes on old classics, so fasten your seat belts!  The second Spring production is a revival of Atom Egoyan's sensational Salome, beginning on April 21st at 2 pm. In a recent interview, Egoyan says he has given his original direction a lot of re-thinking, so we all look forward to the changes. Salome is American soprano Erika Sunnegardh in one of her signature roles. Bass-baritone Alan Held returns as Jochanaan, and tenor Richard Margison sings the character role of Herod. Also very interesting is German mezzo Hanna Schwarz singing Herodias. Wagnerites remember her well - she was the Fricka in the Centennial Ring in Bayreuth directed by Patrice Chereau in 1976. Schwarz turns 70 later this year - talk about longevity!  Johannes Debus and Derek Bate share conducting duties.

Swedish-American soprano Erika Sunnegardh (photo:

Tenor Lawrence Wiliford and collaborative pianist Steven Philcox are the two founders of the Canadian Art Song Project.  They will be presenting A Celebration of Canadian Art Song, a noon-hour concert on Tuesday April 16th at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre The centerpiece is the world premiere of a new cycle by Norbert Palej, Fourteen Small Songs, set to text by Jan Zwicky. Also on the program is a new work by Andrew Ager and a selection of songs by Jean Coulthard. Joining Wiliford will be soprano Shannon Mercer and baritone Peter McGillivray.  Be sure to show up an hour ahead for a seat.

                             Tenor Lawrence Wiliford (photo:

On April 11th and 13th, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is featuring soprano Measha Brueggergosman in Duparc songs and the wonderful Knoxville: Summer of 1915 by Samuel Barber. The soprano recorded this on CBC Records several years ago.  Also on the program is Stravinsky's Firebird Suite. American conductor James Gaffigan is at the helm.   

  Conductor James Gaffigan (photo:

Great Russian violinist Gil Shaham is making a welcome return to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on April 17 and 18, as soloist in Mozart's Violin Concerto no. 5, known as the "Turkish."  It is paired with Smetana's Ma Vlast, his best known work, here presented with a twist - there are going to be projections co-commissioned by the TSO, "photo-choreographed" by James Westwater and Nicholas Bardonnay.  Peter Oundjian, the TSO Music Director, is at the helm. All performances at Roy Thomson Hall.

Violinist Gil Shaham

For a single performance on Saturday April 20th 7:30 pm, the National Arts Centre Orchestra is in town, with its Music Director Pinchas Zukerman leading the NAC forces in Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 5 "Reformation" and Saint-Saens' Piano Concerto No. 2 with Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan. The opening work is well known Canadian composer John Estacio's Brio, Toccata and Fantasy for Orchestra. This is one of the TSO Casual Concerts, meaning no intermission followed by a party in the lobby with coffee and live music by the Ron Davis Trio. 

Conductor Pinchas Zukerman 

As part of the Roy Thomson Hall Canada Voices Series, mezzo Allyson McHardy is giving a recital on April 14th 2 pm at the Glenn Gould Studio. Stephen Ralls is the collaborative pianist. I'm not able to find program information. McHardy wowed audience and critics recently as Sister Helen Prejean in the Opera de Montreal's Dead Man Walking.  She's a singer who combines a beautiful voice with musicality.

Mezzo soprano Allyson McHardy (photo: Bo Huang)

Pianist Daniil Trifonov plays Koerner Hall April 14 

Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov is a bona fide phenom. A charismatic artist, Trifonov has enjoyed tremendous success at competitions, including the Arthur Rubinstein, Warsaw and the Tchaikovsky, and all before he turned 22!  He's now concertizing widely to critical and audience acclaim. His April 14 Koerner Hall recital includes works by Scriabin, Liszt, and Rachmaninov.  This is a concert not to be missed. 

Violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg

On Friday April 19th at Koerner Hall, violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg joins forces with pianist Anne-Marie McDermott in Prokofiev's Violin Sonata No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 60 and Cesar Frank's Violin Sonata in A Major. The program also includes Arvo Part's Spiegel im Spiegel, an interesting combination.

Pianist Inon Barnatan (photo: Marco Borggreve)

My last choice - but definitely not least - for these two musically jam-packed weeks is the joint recital of pianist Inon Barnatan and cellist Alisa Weilerstein on April 21 3 pm at Koerner Hall.  (Barnatan is doing double duty this weekend, playing with the NAC Orchestra at Roy Thomson on April 20.)  Here at Koerner, they are playing a program of Beethoven, Britten, Shostakovich and Rachmaninov.

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Saturday, 6 April 2013

Paolo Fazioli Dedicates Special Fazioli Grand in Shangri-la Hotel

Paolo Fazioli Dedicates Special Fazioli Grand at Toronto Shangri-la Hotel

Friday April 5th 2013, Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto

by Joseph So

When it comes to legendary piano brands, the most fable makes are the oldest ones - Steinway, Boesendorfer, and Bechstein. These names all have a long, long history - Steinway dates back to 1853, same year as Bechstein, and Boesendorfer goes back even farther, to 1828!  Then there's the Italian piano brand of Fazioli. It was found in 1981, which makes it only 32 years old, a baby in piano history terms. Yet in a short time it has shot to the pinnacle, becoming a brand as fabled as the others, a favourite of many classical pianists. Some of the best known Canadian pianists - Angela Hewitt, Louis Lortie and Marc-Andre Hamelin - have all played on Fazioli pianos in their recitals. Hewitt is quoted as saying the Fazioli is "a very creative piano, it really lets you (do) all that your imagination wants to do. It has a huge range of colours, from the most powerful sounds to the most delicate sounds - which are all produced with great ease. It is my most precious possession!" Stephen Hough calls it "an instrument of rare distinction." Russian Daniil Trifonov, one of the most stunningly gifted young pianist (who incidentally will play a recital at Koerner Hall on April 14) says: "Playing the Fazioli....has been one of my life's most wonderful experiences."

The Fazioli piano making process is meticulous - everything is handcrafted and only 110 pianos are produced a year. Paolo Fazioli is in charge of the family business and he was in town yesterday to dedicate a one of a kind Fazioli custom made for the Toronto Shangri-La Hotel. This $300,000 Fazioli is finished in light oak and matches the decor of the Shangri-La lobby beautifully. With the permission of fabled Canadian songwriter Joni Mitchell (who incidentally will be honoured at this year's Luminato Festival in a huge tribute in June), her song, "My Old Man" is engraved on the piano lid, with the sheet music embroidered on the piano cover.  Yesterday afternoon, at a media event, Vancouver-based 6 year old Isabelle Wang performed on the piano for the media.  Ms. Wang is scheduled to play at Carnegie Hall later this month - wow, the mind boggles!  

Ms. Kerry Connolly, media director of the Toronto Shangri-La, kicked off the proceedings by welcoming everyone, followed by Manuel Bernaschek, speaking on behalf of Fazioli pianos and he introduced Mr. Fazioli, who proceeded to sign the piano, which was then played by Isabelle Wang and Aisa Sayama. It was also announced that Remenyi House of Music will be carrying the Fazioli piano for the Toronto market.  Lovely piano, great sound, delicious prosecco and sumptuous pastries in beautiful surroundings - what a delightful way to spend a Friday afternoon!

Paolo Fazioli's autograph on the piano (Photo: LIZPR)

  Manuel Bernaschek of Fazioli (l.) and Kerry Connolly of Shangri-la (r.) open the festivities (Photo: Joseph So)

(l.) Paolo Fazioli addressing the audience (Photo: Joseph So)

 (l. left and below) 6 year old Isabelle Wang entertains the guests with her marvelous playing. (Photo: Joseph So)

For a diminutive pianist, they have a foot stool with pedal extensions - how ingenious! (Photo: Joseph So) 

Mr. Paolo Fazioli with 6-year old Isabelle Wang (Photo: Joseph So)

Paolo Fazioli kicking the tires :-)  (Photo: Joseph So)

Shangri-La Lobby pianist Aisa Sayama tries out the instrument (Photo: Joseph So)

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Monday, 1 April 2013

Video of the Day: Vestard Shimkus Plays Rhapsody In Blue

Latvian pianist Vestard Shimkus

Latvian pianist Vestard Shimkus is making his Canadian debut on Wednesday evening at the Glenn Gould Studio, together with his wife, soprano Elina Shimkus. Here is Shimkus playing Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, a very stylish rendition.  

The first half of the concert will open with Vestard Shimkus' own transcription of 'Liebestod' from Tristan und Isolde, and Liszt's transcription for 'Spinnerlied' from Der fliegende Hollander.  This will be followed by Latvian composer Janis Medins' 'Dainas' and Peteris Vasks' 'White Scenery' from The Seasons.  The first half concludes with Shimkus playing his own composition, 'Black Charleston' (2011).

Soprano Elina Shimkus

In the second half, he will be joined by his wife, soprano Elina Shimkus in a performance of Janis Medins' song cycle, 'Orphan's Song', Lucija Garuta's 'The Givers', Jazeps Medins' 'Reverie' and Jazeps Vitols' 'Happiness'.  The program ends with arias from Cosi fan tutte, Nozze di Figaro and Il barbiere di Siviglia.   

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