La Scena Musicale

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

No Canadians Selected for 2016 Montreal International Musical Competition (CMIM) in Violin

by Wah Keung Chan

The Montreal International Musical Competition (CMIM) announced yesterday the 24 candidates to compete at the 2016 edition in violin to be held from May 22 to June 2. According to the press release, the 24 violinists consists of 16 women and 8 men from 13 countries with an average age of 23. Surprisingly, there are no Canadian candidates, which is the first time this Canadian international competition has not had a Canadian vying for the $86,000 in prizes; consequently, the special prizes designated for the best Canadian and best Quebecer will not be awarded.

The highest number of candidates are from the Unites States (7) and South Korea (6), followed by Japan (3) and France (2). The remaining nine countries are represented by one participant each: Bulgaria, China, Finland, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Russia, Taiwan and Ukraine. The preselection jury included Jonathan Crow, Boris Kuschnir, Douglas McNabney, Lucie Robert, and Andrew Wan, and the selection was conducted in a blind listen.

The absence of Canadians at the CMIM raises some interesting and concerning questions:

  • are non-Canadian violinists so much better than young Canadian violinists in this generation?  
  • what does this say about the state of violin instruction in Canada?
These are important questions as in voice and piano, Canada has been doing quite well internationally.


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Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Canadian Mezzo Emily D'Angelo Makes Finals of 2016 Met Audition

by Wah Keung Chan

Canadian mezzo-soprano Emily D'Angelo is one of nine finalists of the 2016 Metropolitan Opera's National Council Auditions to be held on March 13, 2016. D'Angelo hails from Toronto and is currently completing her undergraduate degree in Vocal Performance at the University of Toronto, studying under soprano Elizabeth McDonald, and is a student of New York City voice teacher Patricia McCaffrey. She will join the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio in Fall 2016. 

See below for the press release and full list of the nine finalists.

Sean Michael Plumb, Emily D'Angelo, Jakub Józef Orliński, Sol Jin, Yelena Dyachek, Jonas Hacker, Lauren Feider, Brian Vu, and Theo Hoffman pose together following the announcement of the Finalists. Photo by Rebecca Fay/Metropolitan Opera.

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Monday, 7 March 2016

Cette semaine à Montréal (7 à 13 mars) / This Week in Montreal (March 7–13)


En mars, Bernard Labadie a choisi une œuvre importante de la musique baroque, la Passion selon saint Matthieu, un sommet incontestable de la musique occidentale et une partition monumentale dont l’exécution dure 2 heures 45. Solistes : John Mark Ainsley, ténor, Neal Davies, baryton, Karina Gauvin, soprano, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, contralto, Andrew Staples, ténor et Andrew Foster-Williams, baryton-basse. Avec la Chapelle de Québec. Maison symphonique, 12 mars, 19 h 30.


In March Bernard Labadie will conduct the St. Matthew Passion, a major work of the Baroque and a pinnacle in western music. The score is monumental and will take 2 hours 45 minutes to perform. Soloists: John Mark Ainsley, tenor, Neal Davies, baritone, Karina Gauvin, soprano, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, contralto, Andrew Staples, tenor and Andrew Foster-Williams, bass-baritone. With the Chapelle de Québec. Maison symphonique, March 12, 7:30 pm.



En mars, l’OSM offre, sous la direction de Kent Nagano, Le Sacre du printemps de Stravinski, l’une des œuvres les plus importantes du 20e siècle qui a inspiré de nombreux chorégraphes. En première ­partie, le jeune pianiste Danil Trifonov, déjà reconnu pour son intériorité et sa maturité, se mesure au flamboyant Troisième concerto de Prokofiev. Les 8, 9 et 10 mars, 20 h.


In March, Montréalers have the opportunity to hear Kent Nagano and the OSM play Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring: not only one of the most important orchestral works of the 20th century, but also a ballet that has inspired many choreographers. During the first half of the concert, 24-year-old pianist Danil Trifonof – already known for his sensitivity and maturity – tackles Prokofiev’s flamboyant Concerto No. 3. March 8, 9, 10, 8:00 pm.



Ayant commencé sa carrière de soliste dès l’âge de 5 ans, Maxim Vengerov a remporté de nombreux concours et a très vite atteint les sommets. En 2009, il délaisse l’archet au profit de la baguette de chef d’orchestre. Il reprend sa carrière de violoniste en 2011 et n’a cessé depuis d’accumuler les succès. Au programme : Brahms, Ysaÿe, Franck, Paganini. Avec Patrice Laré au piano. Une présentation de la Société de Musique de chambre de Montréal. Grand Théâtre de Québec, 3 mars, 20 h, Roy Thomson Hall, 11 mars, 20 h, Maison symphonique, concert gala-bénéfice, 13 mars, 20 h.


After giving his first professional solo violin concert at the age of 5, Maxim Vengerov won numerous competitions and very quickly rose to the top. In 2009, he replaced his bow with a conductor’s baton. But in 2011 he took up his violin career again. Since then, he has continued to exemplify success. The Montreal Chamber Music Society presents Vengerov and pianist Patrice Laré performing Brahms, Ysaÿe, Franck, and Paganini. Grand Théâtre de Québec, March 3, 8 pm, Roy Thomson Hall, March 11, 8 pm, Maison Symphonique, benefit concert/gala, March 13, 8 pm.

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Lebrecht Weekly - Mahler: 1st symphony (BR Klassik)

2/5 stars

Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s interpretation of Mahler’s first symphony is beautifully played by Munich’s (some say Germany’s) best orchestra and thoughtfully structured by an impressive guest conductor. I think I am safe in saying that it is conceptually different from any of the 120 Mahler Firsts on record, stretching all the way back to Dmitri Mitropolous’s towering Minnesota performance for Columbia in April 1940. And that’s no small distinction in a much-repeated piece.

Where Yannick differs from all others is in atmospherics. The opening four and a half minutes of ambient sound, where the ear searches for a clue to what’s going on, is brought here into close focus, making the opaque explicit and the nebulous utterly literal. It might well be titled Mahler Demystified.

Brisk speeds, maintained into the second movement, give little room for breath or reflection. The third movement, commencing with the child’s funeral march that turns into a drunken orgy, is muscular and emphatic, and the finale is appropriately helter-skelter. The conductor’s priority throughout appears to be beauty and simplicity above disturbance and profundity.

Mahler told conductors to interpret his music any way they liked so there’s no fault to be found in Yannick’s approach. But what is lost is how utterly revolutionary this work was and remains, how it rewrites the symphony from first principles by refusing to deliver instant gratification and by employing irony to convey multiple and contradictory narratives. Making it easy was not what Mahler had in mind.

This is a young man’s guide to Mahler’s First and some listeners will warm to its naivety and nature worship; the Munich musicians certainly sound like they are having a ball. But the absence of irony saps interest in the composer’s argument and the bustling speeds prove ultimately deceptive. Bruno Walter, in his seventies, got through the score five minutes faster than Yannick.

—Norman Lebrecht

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Sunday, 6 March 2016

This Week in Toronto (Mar. 7 - 13)

My Toronto Concert Previews for the Week of March 7 to 13

~ Joseph So

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra's New Creations Festival continues this week with two performances. On Wednesday March 9th 8 p.m. is the North American premiere of Two Memorials: Anton Webern and John Lennon, in which Australian composer James Ledger pays tribute to the two musical greats. Also on the program is Brett Dean's trumpet concerto Dramatis personae, with soloist Hakan Hardenberger, for whom Dean composed this work. There's also the world premiere of From the Vortex Perspective, a TSO commission from composer Paul Frehner. Both Ledger and Frehner will be interviewed by Gary Kulesha at intermission. Peter Oundjian conducts.

Australian composer James Ledger (

On Saturday March 12th is the last of three concerts of the TSO New Creations Festival.  It features the Canadian premiere of Water, a work by Jonny Greenwood of the English rock group, Radiohead. Australian composer Brett Dean presents Knocking at the Hellgate, a vocal/instrumental suite of excerpts from his 2010 opera, Bliss. The soloist is Canadian baritone Russell Braun. Dean will be conducting his own work, with Peter Oundjian conducting the balance of the program. DJ Skratch Bastid returns to present his remix of the music from the Festival. There's an interesting pre-concert event at 6:45 p.m., in which soprano Carla Huhtanen and baritone Peter McGillivray showcase selections of works presented by Tapestry Opera, a company specializing in new creations. Included is a sneak preview of the world premiere (scheduled for May) of The Rocking-Horse Winner.

Russian violinist Maxim Vengerov

The charismatic Russian violinist Maxim Vengerov makes a welcome return to Toronto, under the auspices of the Montreal Chamber Music Society, in recital at Roy Thomson Hall on Friday March 11th 8 pm. On the program are works by Brahms, Franck, and Paganini. Appearing with him is pianist Patrice Lare.

Scottish composer James MacMillan (Photo: Hans Van Der Woerd)

Soundstreams, the adventurous new music presenter, is putting on a choral evening of the music of Scottish composer James MacMillan on Tuesday, March 8th 8 p.m. at the Trinity St. Paul's Centre.  On the program are works by Knut Nystedt, James Rolfe, R. Murray Schafer, as well as two pieces by MacMillan. Lawrence Cherney interviews MacMillan and James Rolfe in a pre-concert chat at 7 p.m.

Poster of the U of T production of Paul Bunyan 

The University of Toronto Faculty of Music Opera Division is presenting Benjamin Britten's Paul Bunyan. If memory serves, the opera school staged this piece maybe ten years ago. Okay, I just checked - it was back in 1998!  It didn't seem so long ago.  Britten and his partner tenor Peter Pears spent some years living in the U.S., which probably inspired him to compose this piece, quite a distinctive score full of American folk and jazz elements.  Four performances, beginning Thursday March 10th 7:30 p.m. at the MacMillan Theatre and continues for three subsequent evenings. This is a good opportunity to hear up and coming voices. Sandra Horst conducts and Michael Patrick Albano directs.

The Devil Inside (Photo: Bill Cooper)

Tapestry Opera is joining forces with Scottish Opera and Music Theatre Wales to present The Devil Inside, a "Faustian opera" composed by Scottish composer Stuart MacRae with libretto by Louise Welsh, based on a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Bottle Imp. It was recently staged in Theatre Royal in Glasgow to resounding success, receiving a 5-star rating by George Hall in The Guardian. It's the same creative team who will be performing here at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre, opening on March 10th 8 p.m. and continuing on March 12th and 13th. The soloists are Nicholas Sharratt, Rachel Kelly, Ben McAteer, and Steven Page. Michael Rafferty conducts players of the Orchestra of the Scottish Opera. Matthew Richardson directs.

Collectif9 (Photo: Danylo Bobyk)

Music Toronto's Discovery Series brings to Toronto artists who are relatively new to our city. This week, it's Collectif9.  It's a Canadian string ensemble founded in Montreal in 2011, known for its cutting-edge, rock-infused arrangements of the classical repertoire.  Program includes works by Brahms, Shostakovich, Bartok, Schnittke, Hindemith and others. For information on the group, go to  Concert on Thursday March 10th 8 p.m. at the Jane Mallett Theatre.

Canadian composer-pianist Adam Sherkin

Canadian pianist-composer Adam Sherkin is giving a recital, True North Stories, at the Canadian Music Centre on 20 St. Joseph Street in downtown Toronto on Thursday March 10th 7:30 p.m.  He is playing the works of Istvan Anhalt and Oskar Morawetz, as well as his own compositions. The centerpiece is True North Stories, which as I understand is made up of pieces by Sibelius, Applebaum, Grieg, Rangstrom, Somers as well as Sherkin himself. You can always count on Mr. Sherkin for innovative and thoughtful programming. So rather than my trying to explain what he does, do go to hear him.


On March 11th and 12th 8 p.m. at the Trinity St. Paul's Centre, the Toronto Consort is presenting an intriguing piece, Beowulf, a one man show by "Medieval Performer Benjamin Bagby, in one of the great epics of the European bardic tradition, of  the battle between the hero Beowulf and the monster Grendel. Find out more about the performer and the show at

Ensemble Midtvest

On Sunday March 13, the Danish chamber group Ensemble Midtvest makes its Canadian debut, with a program of Brahms, Beethoven, and Nielsen, at Walter Hall.  There is a young person's event, Music and Truffles, to happen at 1:15 pm. The regular concert is at 3:15 p.m.. Go to the Mooredale website for details -

Vienna Mozart Orchestra

Also on March 13 Sunday afternoon, Attila Glatz Concert Productions is bringing to Toronto the Vienna Mozart Orchestra, with soloists soprano Sera Gosch and baritone Sokolin Asllani in a program of Mozart bon bons the likes of Eine kleine Nacht Musik, plus arias and duets from Die Zauberfloete and Le nozze di Figaro. Andras Deak conducts. This Orchestra is currently on a North American tour.

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