La Scena Musicale

Monday, 25 January 2016

Lebrecht CD of the Week - Manhattan Intermezzo (Naxos)

Editor's Note: La Scena Musicale is pleased to welcome back contributor Norman Lebrecht for his weekly CD reviews, which will be posted online on Mondays and appear in the print edition.  Read Norman's regular CD reviews and columns at Lebrecht Weekly.

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Manhattan Intermezzo (Naxos)
Run Time: 69 m 19 s

Rating: 3/5 stars

What you really need to start 2016 – what you never imagined you'd ever need – is a piano concerto by Neil Sedaka.

Absolutely no irony here. Anyone who can write a novel or concerto start to finish without falling on his/her plot deserves all the credit going and a fair ride from reviewers. Sedaka, 75, made his name with a stream of teen hits in the late 1950s after attending Saturday classes at Juilliard. He hit the #1 jackpot with Oh, Carol, a tribute to his ex-girlfriend Carole King, and never looked back.

Except, perhaps, for a hankering to do some of the stuff he learned at Juilliard. He kept up his piano playing and, after tooling around with a Chopin project, produced the title piece of this album, a meditation on his home town. Like Manhattan itself, the score has got all you can eat – lashings of Rachmaninov, a splosh of Schumann, a Gershwin kick-start, ethnic dabblings and layer upon layer of pure smooch. Jeffrey Biegel plays it for all it’s worth, the Brown University Orchestra is perfectly adequate and you won’t feel the slightest bit ripped off by the experience.

Also on the album: a Duke Ellington concoction, a concerto by ELP’s keyboardist Keith Emerson and a somewhat unnecessary Rhapsody in Blue. On my copy, the order of play on the disc differs from that on the sleeve. Let your ear be the guide. There’s no mistaking the Duke’s irresistible swing or the unfiltered breakfast syrup of Sedaka. Go on, ignore the calories and indulge.

—Norman Lebrecht

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Cette semaine à Montréal (25 à 31 janvier) / This Week in Montreal (January 25–31)

Opera McGill: L'Elisir d'amore

Opera McGill’s annual mainstage opera is a production of Donizetti’s comic opera L’Elisir d’amore, known for great arias including Nemorino’s “Una ­furtive lagrima.” Patrick Hansen conducts with staging by François Racine. Pollack Hall. January 28, 29, 30 at 7:30 pm, and January 31 at 2 pm. The performances on the 29th and 30th will be webcast at

Image result for Opera McGill: L'Elisir d'amore

Jean-Guihen Queyras aux Violons du Roy

C’est une rencontre longuement attendue que fera avec les Violons du Roy ce violoncelliste inspiré. Soliste de l’Ensemble intercontemporain dirigé alors par Boulez, qui en avait fait son protégé, le réputé violoncelliste possède une grande diversité de répertoire. Œuvres au ­programme, sous la direction de Mathieu Lussier : Bach, Monn et Hasse. Salle Bourgie, 29 janvier, 19 h 30.

Cet hiver au Théâtre Outremont

Le Théâtre Outremont, devenu en 2015 le premier théâtre municipal de l’histoire de Montréal, a maintenant une vocation artistique variée incluant cinéma, danse, musique et théâtre. Il vise à favoriser la ­participation du public montréalais à la vie culturelle, incluant le public jeunesse. Plusieurs spectacles seront à l’affiche en décembre et janvier. Le 28 janvier, le trompettiste Jacques Kuba Seguin ramène le jazz au théâtre avec son ensemble Odd Lot, qui présente son dernier opus, L’élévation du point de chute.

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Sunday, 24 January 2016

This Week in Toronto (Jan. 25 - 31)

My Toronto Concert Picks for the Week of January 25 to 31

~ Joseph So

Stefan Vinke (Siegfried) and Christine Goerke (Brunnhilde) Photo: Michael Cooper

Canadian Opera Company's winter season opened with Siegfried  last evening. This is the same production from the Ring Cycle that opened the opera house nearly ten years ago. What a joy to re-acquaint myself with this masterpiece, directed by Francois Girard.  Siegfried for years has been my least favourite of the Ring operas, but last evening's show was so stunning that I just might change my mind!  First of all, it was a great night of singing, from Stefan Vinke (Siegfried) down to the smallest roles. He was matched by the Brunnhilde of Christine Goerke. The rich, ringing tone of Alan Held (Wanderer) was a joy. The COC Orchestra under Johannes Debus made magnificent sounds for 5 hours (okay, that includes two relatively short intermissions). A full review to follow in Musical Toronto - I will update with the link here. Anyway, this show is not to be missed!  Yes it's long but the music is glorious. Two performances this week, Jan. 27 at the early start time of 6:30 p.m. and Jan. 30 at the super-early start time of 4:30 p.m.

(l. to r.) Alan Held, Stefan Vinke, Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke in Siegfried (Photo: Michael Cooper)

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is presenting a very interesting program this week, combining Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique with the gorgeously atmospheric tone poem The Swan of Tuonela by Sibelius.It's one of those rare compositions, written specifically for cor anglais or English Horn. It's called that but in reality it's a lower-pitched oboe. To me, this piece has amazing suggestive power of imagery - just listening to the strings and its interplay with the woodwind gives me the chills. Watch this clip and see if you agree with me -  As if that's not enough of an attraction, these performances also feature Canada's "queen of new music" Barbara Hannigan in Dutilleux's Correspondances. She has recorded this for Detusche Grammophon a few years ago. Peter Oundjian conducts. Performances at Roy Thomson Hall on Jan. 27 and 28.

Soprano Barbara Hannigan (Photo: Raphael Brand)

On Saturday Jan. 30th 3 p.m., the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra under the baton of conductor Shalom Bard is giving a concert at the MacMillan Theatre, Edward Johnson Building on the campus of University of Toronto. On the program are Sibelius Symphony No. 1, Rossini's Overture to La gazza ladra, and Shostakovich's Festive Overture.

Russian pianist Denis Matsuev

Another important concert this week is the recital by the fabulous Russian pianist Denis Matsuev on Saturday Jan. 30  8 p.m. at Koerner Hall. He is in the middle of a North American tour and thanks to Show One Productions, he's making Toronto one of his stops.  However, it's already sold-out, but you can always check with the box office for returns.  He is playing a program of works by Schumann and Rachmaninoff.

Violinist Daniel Hope (Photo: Harald Hoffmann)

British violinist Daniel Hope had a long association with the late, great Yehudi Menuhin. At the age of 11, Hope was invited by Menuhin to play Bartok duos with him on German television, thus beginning a long artistic partnership that resulted in over 60 concerts, including Menuhin's last performance on March 7th 1999, when the great maestro conducted Hope's performance of Schnittke's Violin Concerto. On Thursday Jan. 28th 8 p.m. at Koerner Hall, Hope joins German pianist Sebastian Knauer in a recital, billed Yehudi Menuhin @100. They will perform pieces by Bach, Enescu, Mendelssohn, Walton, Ravel and Bartok.

The august Toronto Mendelssohn Choir is giving a free community concert on Saturday January 30th 3 p.m. at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church. It's general seating, so get there early! Doors open at 2:15 p.m. TMC is accepting donations to support their outreach program. Suggested donation is $10. This concert is given in conjunction with the 6th Annual Choral Conductor's Symposium, which is open to the public for a fee.  The concert will be webcast on Livestream at  New for 2016, the concert will include the premieres of two works submitted to the TMC Choral Composition Competition. For more information, go to

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