La Scena Musicale

Sunday, 19 January 2014

This Week in Toronto (Jan. 20 - 26)

This Week in Toronto (Jan. 20 - 26)

- Joseph So

Pianist Louis Lortie

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is in full swing this week with four concerts. French Canadian pianist Louis Lortie is in town to play and conduct an all-Mozart program with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.  He's playing the Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat Major, K, 482. Jonathan Crow, the TSO Concertmaster, is soloist in the Violin Sonata No. 18, K.301/293a. Rounding out the program is Serenade No. 10, the "Gran Partita".  Wednesday Jan. 22 and Thursday 23 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall.  On Saturday Jan. 25 8 pm and Sunday Jan. 26 3pm, Quebec Symphony Orchestra conductor Fabien Gabel is in town for an (almost) all French program of Thomas, Debussy, Ravel, Berlioz, Satie, Saint-Saens, plus Wagner, a bit of a potpourri. The centerpiece is the Ravel Piano Concerto in G Major with soloist Ryan MacEvoy McCullough.

Pianist Marc Andre Hamelin

Pianist Marc Andre Hamelin is making a welcome return to Toronto under the auspices of Music Toronto, this time in Schubert's Four Impromptus D935, another finger-breaker by Nikolai Medtner - Sonata in E Minor Op. 25 no. 2, and Hamelin's own composition, Barcarolle (2012). Recital on Tuesday Jan. 21 at 8 pm.

 Soprano Layla Claire

Canadian Opera Company continues with Cosi fan tutte (Jan. 24 at 7:30 pm) starring soprano Layla Claire, mezzo Wallis Giunta, tenor Paul Appleby, baritone Robert Gleadow, soprano Tracy Dahl and bass Sir Thomas Allen, conducted by COC Music Director Johannes Debus.  I attended the opener last evening and it was quite a memorable performance for a number of reasons.  First of all, it was the longest Cosi I've ever experienced, positively Wagnerian in length, clocking in at three hours and thirty-five minutes, including a fairly short intermission. Debus proved to be a most versatile conductor, adept at Strauss as well as Mozart, and everything in between! His tempi tend to be on the slow side, and as a singer-friendly conductor, he allows the soloists the more leisurely tempo in their respective arias. As far as I could tell, most if all the music typically cut in performance these days have been restored in this production, including the Act 2 aria "Tradito, schernito" a difficult aria that sits awkwardly in the passaggio. Tenor Paul Appleby sang it well if at a fairly slow clip. In fact the singing of the six principals were excellent.  Layla Claire and Wallis Giunta made a totally believable pair of sisters - they could be twins - their voices blending beautifully. Veterans Sir Thomas Allen (Alfonso) and Tracy Dahl (Despina) couldn't have been better as the pair of intriguers. Baritone Robert Gleadow showed off his perfect comic timing as Guglielmo and he sounded the best I've heard him. The production by Atom Egoyan is fanciful and heavy on symbolism, its merit dependent on one's affinity to concept staging. The funny bits were right on the mark, judging by the frequent laughter from the audience. Visually it's quite a lovely production. This show is a must for Mozart fans, and you won't get better musical qualities than this.

Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe

The great American mezzo Stephanie Blythe is in town this week giving masterclasses at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music. She was supposed to be the John R Stratton Visitor last year but illness forced her to withdraw. Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka took her place last year. Blythe is finally here this week. She is giving an art songs masterclass on Tuesday at 7 pm  to 9:30 pm in Walter Hall, and an arias masterclass at noon on  Thursday Jan. 23. On Friday Jan. 24 at 7:30 pm is An Evening of English Songs, with Ms. Blythe and the students who participate in her classes this week.  Incidentally, the singer has a new CD coming out -  As Long as There Are Songs, with Craig Terry at the piano and featuring selections from the Great American Songbook.  This CD is recorded by Meyer Sound using their groundbreaking Constellation Acoustics Technology. If you are intrigued by this disc, more information is available at    For more information of this week's activities, go to

Soprano Charlotte Corwin

Domoney Artists Management, under the directorship of Kathy Domoney, is presenting The Star of Robbie Burns on Saturday Jan. 25 2 pm at Church of the Redeemer in the Bloor Street & Avenue Road area of downtown Toronto.  This concert celebrates the life and work of Scottish poet Robert Burns. The host is Andrew Gillies, well-known for his Shaw and Stratford Festival appearances. The first half of the program explores Burns' world through word and song. Selections from the Broadway musical Brigadoon is the centerpiece in the second half. Soloists are soprano Charlotte Corwin and baritone Benjamin Covey. Tea and shortbread will be served at intermission. For more information, go to