La Scena Musicale

Sunday, 17 November 2013

This Week in Toronto (Nov. 18 - 24)

This Week in Toronto (Nov. 18 - 24)

- Joseph So

An extraordinarily busy week with many presentations by organizations large and small, the top choice for me would be the appearance of cellist Yo Yo Ma at Roy Thomson Hall on Friday Nov. 22 8 pm. Appearing with him is pianist Kathryn Stott. Ma has a special connection to Toronto and his appearances here are invariably sold out. The program is a mix of old and (relatively) new: Manuel de Falla's Seven Canciones Populares Espanolas, Messiaen's Louange a l'Eternite de Jesus, Brahms Sonata No. 3 in D minor, plus works by Astor Piazzola and Heitor Villa-Lobos.

Cellist Yo Yo Ma (Photo: Stephen Danelian)

Toronto Symphony Orchestra's Conductor Laureate Sir Andrew Davis is making his annual return to Toronto this week, in works of Beethoven and his beloved Strauss, with Berg thrown in for good measure. Alban Berg is of course best known for his 12-tone compositions, but early in his career, his musical idiom was decidedly Straussian.  A good example of that is his Sieben fruhe Lieder or Seven Early Songs. The third song, Die Nachtigall, is so melodically inspired that it rivals anything by Strauss. Here to sing it is American-Canadian soprano Erin Wall, who is fabulous in Strauss. Also on the program is Beethoven Symphony No. 4 and Merry Pranks from Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel. Wednesday Nov. 20 and Saturday Nov. 23 at 8 pm.

Sir Andrew Davis

The venerable Toronto Mendelssohn Choir is celebrating the centenary of Benjamin Britten with a concert of two of his religious pieces - The Company of Heaven and St. Nicolas. The first cantata was one of his earlier works, dated to 1937. It is scored for speaker, soprano, tenor, and choir. TMC's Noel Edison is at the helm, with soloists soprano Lesley Bouza, tenor Colin Ainsworth, and speaker Diego Matamoros, Toronto Children's Chorus and the Festival Orchestra.  St. Nicolas was composed in 1948 to text by Eric Crozier. The piece follows the legendary life of Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. Performance on Nov. 20 at 7:30pm, at the spacious Yorkminster Park Baptist Church.

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and Festival Orchestra

New Brunswick soprano Nathalie Paulin is a resident of Toronto and sings frequently in North America and Europe. For some reason, we rarely get to hear her in her adopted hometown of Toronto. The last time I recall hearing her locally was at the Toronto Summer Music in 2012. Paulin is also on the voice faculty of University of Toronto.  Together with fellow faculty member and collaborative pianist Steven Philcox, Paulin is giving a recital of songs by Canadian and American composers Hetu, Couthard, Nimmons, Schwantner, Brady and Crumb.  Her recital on Monday Nov. 18 7 pm at Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building.

Soprano Nathalie Paulin

Pianist pedagogue Menachem Pressler (Photo: Indiana University)

The legendary Menachem Pressler turns 90 this year, and to celebrate, he is joining the New Orford String Quartet in an afternoon of music-making, at Koerner Hall. The program includes Beethoven's String Quartet No. 6 in B-flat Major, Brahms Piano Quintet in F Minor, plus Canadian composer R. Murray Schafter's String Quartet No. 1, in celebration of Schafer's 80th birthday. (Incidentally, Schafer is the cover story in the current issue of La Scena Musicale, the flash version of which you can access here -

Voicebox (Opera in Concert) is presenting Benjamin Britten's Gloriana on Sunday Nov. 24 2:30 pm at its usual venue, the Jane Mallett Theatre at the St. Lawrence Centre on Front Street. The opera tells the story of the relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex, and it premiered in celebration of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.  It was not well received by audience and critics for its less than fully favourable portrayal of the Queen. In recent years, this opera has undergone a revival, and the Royal Opera Covent Garden chose this work just this past June to celebrate the Centenary of Britten's birth, as well as the 60th anniversary of the premiere of this opera. I saw this work quite a few years ago with dramatic soprano Christine Brewer as QE (perfect role for her) and a young Brandon Jovanovich, in his pre-Wagner/Strauss days as Essex. For OIC, Betty Wayne Allison takes on the role of Elizabeth, Adam Luther is Essex (also known as Roberto Devereux) and Dion Mazerolle sings Cecil.   Peter Tiefenbach is the music director and pianist. The chorus is extremely important in this work and expect the OIC chorus to get a full workout. In the spring, the COC is presenting Donizetti's Roberto Devereux, which is of course based on the same historical characters. This is likely your only chance to see the Britten work in Canada, albeit with piano.

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