La Scena Musicale

Sunday, 22 September 2013

This Week in Toronto (Sept. 23 - 29)

The most striking aspect of Toronto Symphony Orchestra's rich offerings this week is the contrast between the two main solo violinists, the veteran (and much beloved) Itzhak Perlman and the fast-rising, "new kid on the block" Taiwanese-Australian Ray Chen. Perlman is certainly a Toronto favourite and an artistic evergreen, whose career began in the mid 1950's when he was in his teens. A victim of polio at the age of four, the sight of Perlman coming on stage with crutches and proceeding to coax the loveliest of sounds from his instrument was a source of inspiration for many. Now 68, he's still going strong, as a violinist, conductor, and teacher.  

Violinist Ray Chen (Photo: Chris Dunlop)

Chen, on the other hand, at 24 is still near the start of his young career. His winning the Queen Elisabeth Competition in 2009 catapulted him to fame, with audience and critics alike marveling at his superb musicality, singing tone, rock solid technique, and in this visually oriented age - dashing good looks. He has previously won the Yehudi Menuhin International Competition for Young Artists in 2008. Now a Sony Classical artist, Chen is rapidly rising to the front ranks of international stars. He will be performing the Mendelssohn violin concerto on Saturday Sept. 28 7:30 pm (Roy Thomson Hall) and Sunday Sept. 29 3 pm (George Weston Hall in North York), under the baton of Peter Oundjian. Also on the program is Dvorak Symphony no. 7, a rather odd situation given that this piece was just programmed the week before! On the Sunday matinee, there's an added piece, Britten's Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell.      

Violinist Itzhak Perlman (Photo: Akira Kinoshita)

Itzhak Perlman will play Tchaikovsky's violin concerto, in two performances - Wednesday Sept. 25 and Thursday Sept. 26, both at 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall.  Also on the program is Walton's Symphony no. 1, and the Canadian premiere of Movements for a Canadian Concerto by Colin Matthews (arr. Britten). The clarinettist is Joaquin Valdepenas.

Audra McDonald (photo: Michael Wilson/IMG Artists)

Meanwhile a couple of miles north at Koerner Hall, the headliner is singer/actress Audra McDonald. One of the most successful and high profile cross-over artists, she is at home on Broadway as well as the classical concert hall. McDonald is opening the new season on Saturday September 28 at 7 pm. This one woman show is a gala event with a separate gala dinner available. There is no specific program information on the Koerner Hall website, so it would be necessary to call for details.

Lotfi Mansouri

To remember the recent passing of former Canadian Opera Company general director Lotfi Mansouri, the COC Ensemble Studio's opening noon hour concert at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre on September 26 is dedicated to the memory of Mansouri. Many will remember that it was Mansouri who thirty-three years ago started the COC Ensemble which has nurtured the careers of so many Canadian young artists the likes of Ben Heppner.  This special concert will feature the whole ensemble (sopranos Claire de Sevigne, Aviva Fortunata, and Sasha Djihanian; mezzos Charlotte Burrage and Danielle MacMillan; tenors Owen McCausland and Andrew Haji; baritones Cameron McPhail and Clarence Frazer; and bass-baritone Gordon Bintner).  At the piano will be Michael Shannon and Liz Upchurch. A special guest is former Ensemble Studio member soprano Simone Osborne, who had worked with Mansouri. Not only does the soprano have Persian heritage like Mansouri, she also considers Mansouri an artistic mentor of hers. This is a free concert and given its significance, seats will be hard to come by and it's important to line up at least one hour ahead to ensure a space.  Click on this link for full program details -

- Joseph So

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