La Scena Musicale

Sunday, 8 June 2014

This Week in Toronto (June 9 - 15)

My Toronto concert picks for the week of June 9 to 15

Joseph So

This week Toronto Symphony Orchestra is presenting in its Masterworks Series Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3 with the brilliant Chinese virtuoso Yuja Wang on June 11 and 12 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall. But as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men... it was announced a few days ago that Ms. Wang has suffered an injury, to her hand presumably. Replacing her is fast-rising Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear.  I have heard him a number of times, including the Beethoven Marathon last year.  He's a fine pianist in possession of a brilliant technique and uncommon sensitivity.  Also on the program is Weber's Overture to his opera Oberon, as well as  Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5, which also appears on TSO Late Night Saturday June 14th at 10 pm, in conjunction with the Luminato Festival 2014. The Orchestra gives a free concert at the David Pecaut Square (right next door to RTH) on June 15th 7 pm, the closing night of Luminato, playing Music of the Americas. It features music of Copland and Bernstein to John Estacio (his Frenergy is just the right piece to open the proceedings!) and Astor Piazzolla, plus others.   TSO music director Peter Oundjian is at the helm for all events. For details go to

Pianist Stewart Goodyear (Photo: Anita Zvonar)

A major presence in Luminato is Canadian singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright - remember his opera Prima Donna and his several one-man shows?  Well, he is back with the cleverly titled If I Loved You - Gentlemen Prefers Broadway. It's billed as an evening of love duets, and Wainwright will bring his gay sensibilities to these old standards. If you haven't, be sure to read the interview he gave to Martin Knelman at the Toronto Star last week.  Wainwright will be joined by a stellar cast of musical luminaries including Josh Groban and Boy George! It's at the Sony Centre on June 14th at 7:30 pm.

Singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright

Opera By Request, the grass-roots, artist-driven opera group, is presenting Berlioz's Beatrice et Benedict on Wednesday June 11 at 7:30 pm at College Street United Church. It's a piece based on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. I saw the Berlioz opera twice in quick succession, first at the Santa Fe Opera in the late 90s and then at the Canadian Opera Company with pretty much the same cast. There are some lovely music in the score - I particularly like the Ursule-Hero duet. (Here is a recording of this duet, gorgeously sung by American soprano Sylvia McNair and Canadian mezzo Catherine Robbin. ) This performance on Wednesday stars two talented singers, mezzo soprano Michele Bogdanowicz (Beatrice) and tenor Ernesto Ramirez (Benedict).  They are a couple in real life and in art. Ramirez had an auspicious debut in the title role of Roberto Devereux at the COC just last month. Bogdanowicz is a former member of the COC Ensemble Studio. This performance is, as usual, with piano accompaniment by William Shookhoff.

Mezzo-soprano Michele Bogdanowicz

Tenor Ernesto Ramirez

Canadian pianist Helena Bowkun is giving a rare public performance on Tuesday June 10 7:30 pm at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church 1585 Yonge Street.  This will be Bowkun's first Toronto recital in 10 years.  She had a major career in the 1970s onwards but as I understand it she scaled back her performing activities due to ill health. On her program this Tuesday are works by Beethoven, Chopin and Rachmaninoff. This is a benefit concert for the Benevolent Fund of the Yorkminster Park Baptist Church. You can find out more about Ms. Bowkun at

Pianist Helena Bowkun

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This Week in Montreal: June 9 to 15

The 103rd Edition of the Prix d’Europe

Since 1911, the Prix d’Europe has developed the careers of young classical musicians, singers and instrumentalists both, by helping them perfect their art and giving them the opportunity to continue their studies outside of Quebec. This year, you can hear contestants in the semi-finals, which take place June 8 to 12 at the Chapelle du Bon-Pasteur. The finals will be held on June 13, and the gala concert, featuring competition winners and guests of honour Charles-Richard Hamelin (pianist, Prix d’Europe 2011) and Victor Fournelle-Blain, (violinist, Prix d’Europe 2012), will be held on June 15 at 2:30 pm at Bourgie Hall, under the auspices of the Honourable Judge John Gomery. During the evening, the Académie de musique du Québec will award various scholarships totaling more than $50,000, including the coveted Prix d’Europe, worth $25,000. The 2014 jury includes Gabrielle Lavigne, mezzo-soprano; Zofia Wislocka, conductor (Belgium); Carol Bergeron, musicologist and journalist; Yegor Dyachkov, cellist; and David Jalbert, pianist. 514-528-1961,

World Premiere: The Esther Diaries

Soprano Sharon Azrieli Perez sings Esther, Queen of Persia and a biblical character, in a new song cycle by Canadian composer Haralabos Stafylakis on an Ellen Frankel text. The McGill Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Boris Brott, accompanies. The Esther Diaries will be created in a concert entitled Klez-Kabaret that will highlight the unique colors of Jewish music. Contemporary dancer Roger Sinha takes on the role of the scribe to whom Esther dictates her diary. The concert will feature another creation: Tur Malka by Henri Oppenheim, performed by the Montreal group Magillah. Maison symphonique - June 10. www.ocm 
 - Justin Bernard

Festival International Montréal en Arts (June 11 – 15)

The 15th annual Festival hosts over 120 visual artists and craftspeople. The large, open-air gallery that is Rue Sainte-Catherine between Berri and Papineau enables visitors to meet artists, both professional and emerging ones, from all different art disciplines. Accueil Bonneau, the organization works towards the social reintegration of homeless people, is a special invited guest. 
 - Hassan Laghcha

Yannick Nézet-Séguin; Hélène Grimaud

The Metropolitan Orchestra closes its 33rd season, with an encounter between Yannick Nézet-Séguin and international star pianist Hélène Grimaud in two performances of Brahms’s Piano Concerto # 1 and Bruckner’s Symphony # 3. The June 12 concert is a benefit for the Metropolitan Orchestra. Note: the June 13 concert begins with a performance of Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture by students from the Joseph-François Perreault School, directed by Nézet-Séguin. Benefit tickets will go towards financing the school’s new concert hall project. Maison symphonique. 
 - Justin Bernard

Suoni per il Popolo 2014

Pushing Boundaries In 2001, the Casa del Popolo launched its festival, the Suoni per il Popolo. The first edition was a bold undertaking due to the fact that it focused entirely on avant-garde music and lasted no less than five weeks. Since then, it has scaled down its time frame to two and a half weeks while drawing steady support from a younger audience attracted to musical experimentation. This year’s edition, like all of its predecessors, runs for 18 days, from June 4 to 22. But that doesn’t mean it is simply content with the status quo. A look at its program reveals that is expanding in all directions. True to its mission, the Suoni will be stretching its boundaries by exploring the cutting edge of rock and punk, electronic, experimental, contemporary classical, folk and avant-pop. Not to be overlooked either is its jazz and improvised music content, but there will also be a focus on media arts and interactive technologies. All told, there are 68 shows on tap—several include two or more groups—and eleven film programs. Six workshop sessions are also scheduled, hosted by guest performers of all musical stripes, some of which allow amateur musicians to join in. This year, new activities have been added. First, the festival, in conjunction with the Bozzini Quartet, has put together a conference around the life and work of visionary British composer Cornelius Cardew, including a performance of his masterwork “Treatise”. Another first is Cartel MTL, an international symposium of new music presenters with some thirty delegates. Hosted by the festival, this event is aimed at networking contacts and is sponsored by the local new music umbrella organization le Vivier, with added support from the Huddersfield Festival in England. The Suoni will be more visible than ever within the community in that its events will take place in 17 venues, the result of may new co-production agreements, including some unusual ones like that of the Jewish General Hospital and its ten-day satellite festival running from June 9-19. As for jazz, it is but one facet of the whole. But its choices are quite enticing for the venturesome. Most concerts slated here will go down at the Café Résonance, 5275-A Parc Avenue (at Fairmount). Of note will be a new quartet lead by alto saxophonist Yves Charuest with Catalonian pianist Augusti Fernández (June 17); drummer Harris Eisenstadt’s Golden State Quartet (20)—see CD review— and lastly, a half-Scandinavian, half-German group called the Deciders (22). On the local front, alto saxman Eric Hove’s tentet will tackle his compositions of striking originality (21). If you like music in your face, no one does it better than the blustery German saxman Peter Brötzmann, and ditto for his American counterparts William Parker and Hamid Drake (Sala Rossa, 10). Online Information and Tickets: Online Downloadable Program: - Marc Chénard

FrancoFolies (June 12-22)

The 26th annual FrancoFolies includes a tribute to Serge Fiori in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place des Arts. Other concerts of note feature Stromae, the Boulay Sisters and the Grand Corps Malade. A few other highlights are Malajube’s lead Julien Mineau’s return to the stage and a concert with Ingrid St-Pierre, accompanied by I Musici. The festival offers 70 indoor shows and 180 free outdoor concerts. 
 - Hassan Laghcha St-Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival (June 2-22) The 24th Fringe Festival is held in a variety of venues around Plateau Mont-Royal, Montreal. There are shows co-presented by Indie Montréal and Culture Cible au Divan Orange and, among others, Hey Ocean, Miracle Fortress, Chic Gamine, APigeon, The Zolas, Lakes of Canada, The Beatdown, Buddy McNeil & The Magic Mirrors, Sultans of String, Pif Paf Hangover. 
 - Hassan Laghcha

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