Stephen Hough. Photo by Sim Canetty-ClarkeIn Billy Wilder’s classic 1955 film The Seven Year Itch, Tom Ewell fantasizes seducing his upstairs neighbour (Marilyn Monroe) while playing a recording of the slow movement of a piano concerto – “Good old Rachmaninoff,” he says, “the Second Piano Concerto, it never misses.” Monroe replies, “It’s not fair. Every time I hear it I go to pieces.” Indeed, the power of the concerto was extensive. Its second movement played a major role in David Lean’s Brief Encounter (1945); Eric Carmen’s All by Myself (1975), notably used in Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), is also derived from the second movement; Full Moon and Empty Arms, a song written by Buddy Kaye and Ted Mossman derived from the third movement, has been covered by the likes of Frank Sinatra (1945) and Bob Dylan (2014). And that just scratches the surface of the impact of some of the most romantic music ever written. It’s an appropriate valentine to Toronto as Stephen Hough and the TSO, conducted by Elim Chan, perform it February 14 to 16 – the evening’s other major work is Rimsky-Korsakov’s crowd-pleasing Scheherazade with TSO concertmaster Jonathan Crow as soloist.

A leading pianist of the generation that includes Marc-André Hamelin, Hough is also a polymath, the first classical performer to receive the MacArthur Genius Award, an exhibited artist, a published author and newspaper columnist. He’s also a lively participant on Twitter, engaging with his audience, posting personal photos (especially of food) and links to musical nuggets out of the past.

Read more: Romancing Rachmaninoff, and Ophelia Gets Mad

Seong-Jin Cho, the 25-year-old South Korean winner of the 2015 Chopin Competition in Warsaw, is a polished performer whose life changed as a result of his Warsaw triumph. From playing 20 to 30 concerts a year, he went to 80 to 90; and, thankfully, no longer needed to participate in competitions. Because of The WholeNote’s production schedule, I missed his sold-out Koerner Hall recital on October 26, 2018, so I’m looking forward to his upcoming TSO appearance January 8, 9 and 11 in Beethoven’s revolutionary Piano Concerto No.4 conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.

Seong-Jin Cho. Photo © Harald HoffmannSome critics have called Cho’s playing “poetic,” something he discussed on the British blog, Where Cherries Ripen, published on October 1, 2019. “What others say about my performances may accurately reflect some aspects of my playing style, but I cannot say I ever intend to sound ‘poetic’. If I may put it differently, there are times when I receive bad reviews, but I never intend to play badly. I think an instrumentalist’s unique sound is like the human voice. Everyone has a unique voice given to them, regardless of their intentions. For example, a tenor can never be a bass. Of course, I can force myself to perform wearing my heart on my sleeve, but this would not change who I fundamentally am. Everyone has a natural way of performing, and I play in my given way. I think audiences have been able to sense that personality.”

Read more: Looking Ahead to 2020

This month there is a panoply of young talent on display in various stages of development with many opportunities to see and hear potential musical stars, some of them in more intimate surroundings than the future may bring.

Nicolas Namoradze. Photo by Andrea FelvegiNicolas Namoradze: One such artist is Nicolas Namoradze, who came to international attention when he was 26 years old after winning the 2018 Honens International Piano Competition in Calgary. Honens is proud of their reputation for discovering and nurturing talent for the 21st century and Namoradze is now in the second year of Honens’ three-year development program that includes management and mentorship opportunities. He will do well if he is able to follow in the footsteps of 2012 laureate Pavel Kolesnikov, now reaping the rewards of his Hyperion Records exposure, and indications are that he may well do so. Namoradze’s performances to date have been hailed by critics as “sparkling… sensitive and coloristic” (New York Times) and “simply gorgeous” (Wall Street Journal). One of his former teachers, the widely respected Emanuel Ax, said that Namoradze is set to become one of the truly important artists of his generation.

Born in Georgia and raised in Budapest, he grew up on a diet of great Hungarian composers like Bartók, Ligeti and Kurtág, as well as Liszt. But as he told Pamela Kuhn on her radio program Center Stage: “Everyone plays Liszt.” As an infant he would “get stuck” listening to Verdi and Wagner. “You could not drag me away,” he said. He began instrumental studies at seven with the piano, but before that he was obsessed with The Beatles and for a short period, AC/DC. Once he began to play, he lived strictly within the classical world. And apart from an interest in jazz, he still does.

Georgian is his mother tongue but if pressed he considers himself a European New Yorker who feels Georgian. Ax invited him to study at Juilliard when they met, when Namoradze was a teenager in Budapest. He accepted once he was ready to study for a master’s degree. He’s now pursuing a PhD at the CUNY Center. His daily regimen includes no more than four hours of physical piano practice, plus a lot of practice mentally. He does yoga, qi gong and tai chi; he’s big on meditation as well. “It helps with competitions and flying into same-day concerts,” he said. “It takes me and the audience to somewhere else.”

He’s also a composer who studied with John Corigliano. Namoradze spoke with Kuhn about Georgian folk music, which he called “one of the wonders of the musical world,” and which has influenced his composing. “It’s a musical tradition that came to tonal harmony from a completely different route,” he said. “And by the tenth and eleventh century; earlier than tonal harmony became established in Western music.”

“Georgian folk music was almost entirely vocal and that means that the tuning system had very little to do with what we call equal temperament,” he explained. “In Georgian folk music there is no octave -- the most stable interval is the third. You stack two thirds on top of each other and you get a triad!” He spoke of its great diversity and complex polyphony and how certain aspects of the way it treats polyphony and counterpoint influenced his composing approach.

Highlights of the current season include a critically acclaimed, sold-out Carnegie debut recital at Zankel Hall, about which ConcertoNet wrote: “[Namoradze] is a pianist who proved that, once in a while, the distinguished members of the jury make a good choice and select a winner who plays like a true artist; who impresses not with pyrotechnics but rather with keen intelligence, a rich tonal palette and refinement … It was a most auspicious debut by an artist representing that rare breed, a thinking virtuoso.” Two other highlights await this rising star: a recital at London’s Wigmore Hall and a recording on Hyperion -- the label of Hamelin, Hough and Hewitt.

Meanwhile, his COC free noon-hour recital on November 19 includes his own Etudes I-VI in addition to Scriabin’s Etudes Op.42.

Two More COC Noon-Hour Concerts of Interest

Born in 1991, pianist and composer Philippe Prud’homme began his piano studies at 12 with professor Gilles Manny. At 16, Prud’homme was accepted, under special circumstances, to the Université de Montréal without even finishing his secondary school education and with only four years of piano under his belt. He earned his master’s with highest distinctions in the class of Dang Thai Son before beginning another graduate degree at the Conservatoire de Montréal in 2015 with Louise Bessette.

Well-known in Quebec, Prud’homme has won first prize at the Canadian Music Competition several times, in the solo piano category, as well as in chamber music. He is particularly interested in the works of Frederic Rzewski and François Morel. In 2016, Prud’homme took home the grand prize at the CMC in the 19-30-year-old category by performing Prokofiev. A few weeks later, he was part of CBC Music’s 30 Hot Canadian Classical Musicians under 30. Soon after, he began his doctorate with Dang Thai Song at the Université de Montréal. His COC concert, November 14, features Liszt’s La Vallée d’Obermann and Prokofiev’s Sonata No.4, bracketted by Chopin and Hamelin.

In addition, a week earlier, November 6, Artists of the Royal Academy of Music in London join with Artists of the Royal Conservatory in Toronto to perform Weinberg’s Piano Trio Op.24 and Hartmann’s String Quartet No.1.  It’s a rare opportunity to hear students from two venerable musical institutions on the same stage.

Ray Chen. Photo by Sophie ZhaiRay Chen

Born in Taiwan and raised in Australia, 30-year-old Ray Chen was accepted by the Curtis Institute of Music at 15 where he studied with Aaron Rosand. He won the Menuhin Competition in 2007 and the Queen Elisabeth of Belgium Competition in 2008, two prestigious prizes that raised his profile and established his professional career. He’s known for his vital social media presence where he interacts with his audience. He once performed in front of 800,000 people on Bastille Day in Paris and he has appeared on the Amazon series, Mozart in the Jungle. And he produced the lush sound that came out of Clive Owen’s character’s violin, jumping off the screen in François Girard’s new film, The Song of Names. He plays the Stradivarius violin once owned by the legendary Joseph Joachim, on loan from the Nippon Music Foundation, with a luxuriant sound reminiscent of David Oistrakh.

The program for his Koerner Hall recital with American pianist Julio Elizalde, on November 8, begins with Grieg’s Violin Sonata No.2 in G Major, Op.13, “written in the euphoria of my honeymoon” and brimming with Norwegian folk music references. Saint-Saëns’ finely crafted Violin Sonata No.1 in D Minor, Op.75 is next followed by Bach’s monumental Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D Minor for Solo Violin, BWV1004, Debussy’s ever-popular Clair de lune (arr. Roelens) and Ravel’s flamboyant Tzigane.

Anastasia Rizikov. Photo by Lev TsivianGallery 345

Gallery 345’s abundant programming continues this month with further installments of the Art of the Piano series and more. Piano 6 Next Generation-member Anastasia Rizikov has dazzled the world ever since her orchestral debut in Kiev at seven. Now 20, having competed with musicians over twice her age in winning numerous international piano competitions, she has entered a new stage in her career. Her November 14 recital is built to please, beginning with three major works by Chopin. After intermission, Burge, Arensky, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff and Balakirev’s devilishly difficult Islameny will further showcase her musical skill set.

Ida Pelliccioli is a 31-year-old Italo-Croatian pianist who grew up in France. Her program, November 29, aims to create echoes between the music of Debussy and that of two composers who influenced him: Rameau and Albeniz. Debussy described Rameau as the pinnacle of the French tradition; his Suite in E Major opens the recital followed by Debussy’s Hommage à Rameau. Debussy was fond of reimagining the music of other countries and Spanish idioms inspired some of his most animated music. Three of the pieces Pelliccioli will play are also linked by the same element of inspiration: Albeniz’s La Vega was also called Alhambra Suite; Debussy’s La Puerta del Vino refers to the gate of the same palace in Granada; and finally, Debussy’s Soirée à Grenade” uses the Arabic scale and mimics guitar strumming to evoke images of this same land and heritage.

NYOC/EUYO Frenergy Tour

The National Youth Orchestra of Canada (NYO Canada) and the European Union Youth Orchestra (EUYO) join forces for The Frenergy Tour, a landmark collaboration and celebration of music and friendship, featuring a combined total of 76 outstanding young musicians under the baton of acclaimed Viennese conductor Sascha Goetzel, with music by Rossini, Ravel, Saint-Saëns, Stravinsky and Wagner, as well as Canadian composer John Estacio’s Frenergy for orchestra. JUNO-nominated, burgeoning-star violinist and NYOC alumnus, Blake Pouliot, is featured as guest soloist in two virtuoso showpieces: Saint-Saëns’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso and Ravel’s Tzigane. This groundbreaking tour comprises concerts in Toronto (Koerner Hall November 12), Kingston (Isabel Bader November 13), Montreal (November 14) and Ottawa (November 17).

Daniel LozakovichTSO Marks the Hits

On November 27, 28  30 and December 1, 18-year-old Swedish-born violin phenom, Daniel Lozakovich, is the soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, a Romantic masterpiece that is the featured work on his just-released, second Deutsche Grammophon CD. Lozakovich began playing the violin before he turned seven and made his debut two years later with Vladimir Spivakov and the Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra. His first appearance on DG came as a 15-year-old when Daniel Hope invited Lozakovich to join him in playing a selection of Bartok’s Duos for two violins on his Tribute to Yehudi Menuhin CD. Rounding out the all-Tchaikovsky program, TSO resident conductor Simon Rivard leads the orchestra in the composer’s beguiling Symphony No.1 “Winter Dreams” and the iconic 1812 Overture.

That program is the culmination of a month of orchestral favourites that begins November 13 with Sir Andrew Davis conducting Shostakovich’s Symphony No.10, arguably the composer’s greatest symphony. Concertmaster Jonathan Crow leads the TSO in Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and Copland’s Appalachian Spring, November 16, 17, 20 and 21. And Leonard Slatkin makes a rare TSO appearance, November 22 and 23, conducting Gershwin’s joyous An American in Paris and Barber’s intensely emotional Piano Concerto (with soloist Jon Kimura Parker).


NOV 7, 7:30PM: Stewart Goodyear joins the legendary Fine Arts String Quartet in a performance of Brahms’ Piano Quintet in F Minor Op.34 at Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, Kingston.

NOV 10, 2PM: Chamber Music Hamilton presents the Fine Arts String Quartet playing Beethoven’s String Quartet Op.18 No.1 and, with cellist and Chamber Music Hamilton co-artistic director Michael Schulte, Bruckner’s unique String Quintet.

NOV 13, 8PM: Violinist Kerry DuWors and pianist Futaba Nickawa were students at the Eastman School of Music when they founded duo526 in 2011. Their acclaimed new Navona CD, Double Fantasy, features works by Villa-Lobos, Bax and Bolcom, which comprise the bulk of their recital for the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society (K-WCMS).  On NOV 16 at 7:30, the duo repeats their program at Gallery 345 in Toronto. Gramophone Magazine praised their recording, calling them a “beautifully balanced duo, with exceptional intonation and a tangible empathy.”

NOV 16, 8PM: The ever-elegant pianist David Jalbert, fresh from his impactful participation in Music Toronto’s spectacular Piano Six New Generation concert on October 22, gives a solo recital for K-WCMS headed by Debussy’s poetic Images Book I and II.

NOV 17, 2:30PM: The formidable Jonathan Biss performs five Beethoven piano sonatas, from the early Op.7 to the celestial Op.109, at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, Kingston.

NOV 17, 3PM: Recalling two prior visits to Koerner Hall – his memorable Soundstreams performance of Max Richter’s Vivaldi Recomposed and subsequent Tribute to Yehudi Menuhin – violinist Daniel Hope returns with his new band, the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, to perform works connected to Menuhin as well as Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.

NOV 23, 7:30PM: Pianist Yefim Bronfman brings his virtuoso talent to a program of Beethoven and Brahms at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, Kingston. NOV 24, 3PM: It’s all Beethoven – Sonatas Nos.7, 8 and 9 as well as No.23 “Appassionata” – when Bronfman comes to Koerner Hall.

NOV 29 AND 30, 8PM: Sparkling violinist, Blake Pouliot, joins conductor Andrei Feher and the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony in a performance of Brahms’ unforgettable Violin Concerto.

NOV 30, 7:30PM: Bravo Niagara!  presents cellist Ofra Harnoy who continues her remarkable recovery from reconstructive shoulder surgery in 2015.  Her Niagara-on-the-Lake recital features music by Bach, Corelli, Popper and a Beatles Medley, supported by her husband, Mike Herriott, on flugelhorn and trumpet. Herriott produced Harnoy’s latest recording, Back to Bach, much of which is the basis for this recital.

DEC 1, 3PM: The first American in three decades and the youngest musician ever to win First Prize at the International Tchaikovsky Competition Cello Division, 20-year-old Zlatomir Fung (who is of Bulgarian-Chinese parentage) is poised to become one of the preeminent cellists of our time. Joining him in this Syrinx Concerts presentation, in the intimate surroundings of Heliconian Hall, are pianist Jean-Luc Therrien, a Jeunesses Musicales Canada alumnus, and violinist Mai Tategami, Orford Music Prize-winner. Piano trios by Haydn, Clara Schumann, Chan Ka Nin and Mendelssohn are enticing.

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.

vision string quartetThe Strings aspect of Music Toronto’s 48th season gets off to an auspicious start with the local debut of two European-based string quartets, the more established Quartetto di Cremona from Genoa, Italy, and the more recently formed (2012) vision quartet centred in Berlin. The Quartetto is said to be the spiritual heir to the fondly remembered Quartetto Italiano; the vision string quartet (like the Polish Apollon Musagète Quartet) plays standing up but in addition performs their concerts completely from memory. Both ensembles will be new for me, so I asked Music Toronto’s artistic producer Jennifer Taylor to give me some background. How long had they been on her radar? How did she discover them? What excites her about them?

She told me that in general she takes a lot of recommendations from artists, managers, other series presenters and concertgoers. She also does a lot of Internet research and listening. “Quartetto are a 20-year quartet; I had heard of them some years ago, but … then they made what I think was their first North American tour, and I wasn’t on it – too late for my planning. They have some well-regarded recordings. In fall 2017 they were entrusted with the Paganini Strads, owned by the Nippon Foundation, that the Tokyo [Quartet] played in their final years. They later signed with a New York management who by coincidence were the Tokyo’s original management three decades ago. It is easier to invite Europeans who have North American management because there may be a tour; very tough to bring anyone for a single date. So I invited them.

“The vision string quartet – they prefer no caps in their name (I’ve just recently been told) – won two European competitions in 2016, but as a four-year-old quartet, I hesitated. Then they signed with a British management I know well, and I started getting info and recordings in early 2017. Later in 2017 they signed with a New York manager I know even better, and we started talking. I made the arrangement in October 2018. Yes, the standing up – I think for the vision it is part of being edgy young guys. We’ll see.

“That’s the way it generally goes. It usually takes about two years from thinking of an artist to finding out to having it suit my timing. I have just today concluded an arrangement for a pianist for 2020/2021. When I started investigating three full years ago, I tried for a date for this season; at long last I have a date. And now we wait to see if all that was worth it! The most long-term interest on my part was Quatuor Mosaïques who opened for us in October 2017. I had tried repeatedly over 20 years to bring them and finally managed it.”

Quartetto di Cremona performs music by Boccherini, Verdi, Puccini and Respighi in the Jane Mallett Theatre on October 17; vision quartet’s recital of works by Haydn, Bacewicz and Schumann takes place November 7.

Music Toronto’s Piano Series opens on October 22, with a gala concert by Piano 6 New Generation, a collective of six internationally acclaimed Canadian concert pianists – Marika Bournaki, Angela Park, Daniel Wnukowski, David Jalbert, Ian Parker and Anastasia Rizikov – who have taken up the mantle of the original Piano 6, founded by Janina Fialkowska. From 1994 to 2004, Piano 6 performed in small communities all over Canada concentrating on remote regions of the country. The appealing program for the Music Toronto Piano 6 New Generation gala will see each of the pianists perform solo as well as participate in a variety of two pianos, four hands repertoire. Solo works by the likes of Schumann, Korngold, Rzewski, Kapustiin, Gershwin and Ravel share the stage with two pianos four hands showstoppers by Ravel, Milhaud, Bernstein and Gershwin. Dead centre, just after intermission, Kevin Lau’s commission Chimaera for two pianos twelve hands will be showcased. It’s an 88-key cornucopia.

Denis MatsuevThree Questions for Denis Matsuev

In advance of his return to Koerner Hall on October 17, Russian piano virtuoso Denis Matsuev, whose victory in the 1998 Tchaikovsky Competition brought him international fame, took time out of his busy schedule – he plays 265 concerts a year – to answer the following questions:

WN: What was the first piece of music you fell in love with?

DM: It was not classical music. I listened to Soviet songs, Oscar Peterson’s jazz improvisations, which I love from my childhood. And since then this music is my favourite.

Who were your musical heroes in your student days?

One cannot say that I believed only one musician or composer to be my musical hero. In different periods of my life I had different heroes. If we talk about performers, I can name Vladimir Horowitz, Svyatoslav Richter, Arturo Michelangeli, Emil Gilels and Sergei Rachmaninoff, of course, as a pianist, composer and great personality.

Your Toronto program is very impressive. Please tell us about what specific thoughts went into your selection of the Tchaikovsky and Liszt works you will be playing in Koerner Hall.

It is always really difficult to formulate for which reason I choose this or that program. My repertoire includes 45 concertos with orchestra and 21 solo programs. Every year I learn one solo program and two concertos [which he’s never played before] with orchestra. It is my usual schedule. Works that I am planning to perform in Toronto have been in my repertoire for some time already. We have a really affectionate relationship with them. Liszt is the apex of Romantic music, I mean his Sonata in B Minor and Mephisto Waltz as well. As for Tchaikovsky’s Grand Sonata, I believe that this music is not performed as frequently as it deserves to be performed. It is really difficult because of its form; one can call it a piano concerto without orchestra. I play it all over the world, so I am happy that I have an opportunity to perform it in the amazing Koerner Hall, that I am deeply in love with.

The Art of the Piano at Gallery 345

The ongoing Art of the Piano series at Gallery 345 takes a giant step forward in October with five concerts by four pianists (and a violinist) of predominantly 19th-century repertoire beginning on October 3 with 32-year-old Israeli pianist Raviv Leibzirer performing Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, Prokofiev’s Sonata No.3 and the solo piano version of Gershwiin’s Rhapsody in Blue. On October 6, musical royalty in the person of Victoria Korchinskaya-Kogan – she is the granddaughter of violinists, Leonid Kogan and Elizaveta Gilels (the sister of iconic Ukrainian pianist Emil Gilels) – takes the stage for a program of Schumann and Chopin before joining with acclaimed Canadian-Lithuanian violinist Atis Bankas to perform Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas Nos.1 and 8.

Mark Pierre Toth’s complete Beethoven Sonatas Project continues with Part 5 (highlighted by the “Appassionata”) on October 11, and Part 6 (the “Pathetique”, “Hammerklavier” and more) on October 20. Toth, whose international career, teaching and performing, is flourishing, also performs for the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society: Part 5 on October 12 and Part 6, October 16. Finally, on October 25, in a clever programming touch, Bulgarian-born, Chicago-based performer and pedagogue Ani Gogova follows Beethoven’s Sonata quasi Fantasia “Moonlight” with Liszt’s Fantasia quasi Sonata “After Reading Dante” before proceeding with two Rachmaninoff Études-Tableaux that lead into Mussorgsky’s monumental Pictures at an Exhibition.

Academy Concert Series New Price Policy

Established in 1991, Academy Concert Series ( offers innovative and intimate chamber music concerts spanning the Baroque, Classical and Romantic eras on period instruments. Recently, artistic director Kerri McGonigle announced that ACS is making a big, bold move to Pay What You Decide. “We no longer have ticket prices. People can pay what they want, when they want and how they want! Tickets can be reserved online or by phone,” she said. Audience feedback led to the change. Some people thought the ticket prices were too low and should increase; others found the ticket prices limited the number of concerts they could attend. With Pay What You Decide everybody gets to decide how much they want to give. The hope is that those that can give more will give generously.

The hoped-for funds will allow ACS to pour the receipts right back into the community via outreach, increasing the payment to their artists, hiring an administrative assistant and increasing the number of ACS concerts. As the ACS website puts it: “Music heals, connects and touches our soul. It moves us, inspires us, energizes and relaxes us.”

As examples of where the hoped-for extra money might go: supporting a new concertgoer, $20; and one community outreach concert in a school, hospital, retirement home or elsewhere $1000 to $1500.

October 5, ACS presents “Family Has Your Bach” – with music by Telemann, J.S. Bach and C.P.E.Bach – performed by recorders/Baroque flute virtuoso Alison Melville, harpsichordist Christopher Bagan, violist/violinist Emily Eng, and cellist Kerri McGonigle. Whatever you decide to pay, you’re welcome. 


OCT 9, 6:45: Founded in 2014, The Toronto Symphony Orchestra Chamber Soloists offer a diverse and varied range of instruments in a wide range of infrequently performed repertoire, along with some best-loved chamber works. They perform inside the Roy Thomson Hall auditorium with the audience seated in the choir loft, with admission included in the price of that night’s TSO concert ticket. The first of this season’s five concerts presents TSO principal flutist Kelly Zimba, assistant principal violist Theresa Rudolph and harpist Heidi Elise Bearcroft performing Debussy’s Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp and Skaila Kanga’s arrangement of Ravel’s inimitable Sonatine. And, in rare opportunity to hear the Soloists away from RTH, the program will be repeated OCT 10, 12PM as part of the COC’s free noon-hour concert series, in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.

OCT 11, 7:30PM: The Don Wright Faculty of Music, Western University, presents Stewart Goodyear in recital. The following day, OCT 12, 11AM, Goodyear will give a free two-hour masterclass.

Elisso GogibedaschviliOCT 18, 8PM: Teenage violinist Elisso Gogibedashvili is the soloist in Paganini’s rousing Concerto No.1 in the opening concert of Sinfonia Toronto’s new season. As well, conductor Nurhan Arman leads his string orchestra in Dvořák’s lyrical Chamber Symphony - Quintet Op.77a. The following day, OCT 19, 7:30, Barrie Concerts brings Arman, the Sinfonia and Gogibedashvili north for a repetition of the program.

OCT 19, 8PM: Formed in 1998, The highly touted Bennewitz Quartet, who made a strong impression in two visits to Ottawa in the last three years brings their middle-European sensibility to the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society and the music of Schumann (String Quartet No.2), Janáček (String Quartet No.2 “Intimate Letters”) and Dvořák (“American” String Quartet). The following afternoon, OCT 20, 3:15PM, they make their Toronto debut opening the new season for Mooredale Concerts. Their Walter Hall recital begins with selections from Bach’s The Art of the Fugue followed by Beethoven’s transportative String Quartet Op.132, and concluding with Mendelssohn’s String Quartet Op.13, which was directly inspired by Beethoven’s Op.132.

OCT 21, 7:30PM: U of T Faculty of Music presents TSO bulwarks, concertmaster Jonathan Crow and principal cellist Joseph Johnson, performing Ravel’s stripped-down Sonata for Violin and Cello (dedicated to Debussy’s memory) and Kodály’s Duo for Violin and Cello in Walter Hall.

OCT 23, 8PM: The Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society presents the Dvořák Piano Quartet with Slávka Vernerová-Pěchočová, piano, in an intriguing recital: Dvořák’s Op.87, an arrangement of Beethoven’s Quintet for Piano and Winds Op.16 and Mahler’s engaging Piano Quartet.

OCT 25, 8PM: TSO principal cellist Joseph Johnson joins Matthew Jones and the Etobicoke Philharmonic Orchestra in Tchaikovsky’s delightful Variations on a Rococo Theme.

OCT 26, 8PM: Two sonatas by Beethoven – including the indelible “Waldstein” – and two works by Schumann should make for another memorable evening by the redoubtable Sir Andras Schiff who seems to be quite at home in Koerner Hall. The preceding afternoon, OCT 25, 3PM, he will give a free masterclass in Mazzoleni Hall. Neither event should be missed.

NOV 2, 3PM: For the opening concert of their tenth anniversary season, 5 at the First Chamber Players presents the AYR Trio (Angela Park, piano; Yehonatan Berick, violin; Rachel Mercer, cello) performing trios by Smetana and Dvořák (the melodious “Dumky”). It’s worth a trip to Hamilton.

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.

As summer fades into fall, it’s time for one last lingering look at Toronto Summer Music’s 2019 season. I was fortunate to attend 16 events this year, nine mainstage concerts, five edifying TSM Connect sessions, one Shuffle Hour solo recital (excerpts from violinist Jennifer Koh’s Shared Madness project) and one reGENERATION concert. [See my two Concert Reports on] Several of the mainstage concerts were among the ten that were sold-out. Spontaneous standing ovations were the rule – Jonathan Crow and Philip Chiu’s recital on July 29 garnered two: the first following the singular beauty, roiling intensity and dynamic contrasts of Franck’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major; the second after John Corigliano’s Sonata for Violin and Piano, which Crow called “youthful, exciting, with lots of notes, fun to play.”

The 33 Academy fellows and the 42 artist mentors entertained a record 16,000 audience members, of whom a score or so sat on the Koerner Hall stage (a TSM first!) for Angela Hewitt’s idiosyncratic, wildly well-received traversal of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. The recital was preceded by a conversation between Eric Friesen and the award-winning author of Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien. Thien wrote her Scotiabank Giller Prize winner while listening to Glenn Gould’s recordings (mostly the 1955 version) of the Goldbergs 10,000 times over the five years it took her to complete the novel. She was walking beside rail tracks in Berlin listening to music on headphones in shuffle mode when Gould’s 1955 recording began to play. It had been years since she’d heard it and it “cracked her open,” she said. So began her purposeful routine. Hewitt’s performance on July 30 was the first time Thien had heard the piece live.

TSM’s irrepressible artistic director, Jonathan Crow, was the fulcrum of the festival, essential to its success and well deserving of the accolades he received. He and several of this year’s mentors will return to their main gig as members of the TSO – more on that later – but his next local appearance is an unexpected one, delightful as it promises to be.

Alexandru Tomescu. Photo by Ioana HameedaGeorge Enescu Festival

On September 7 in Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, Crow and pianist Coral Solomon will inaugurate Toronto’s part in the George Enescu Festival. “We actually centred all three recitals mainly around pieces we loved,” Solomon said via email. “We also wanted to lightly centre these as a tribute to George Enescu who was one of the most remarkable musicians of 20th century Europe. An internationally acclaimed violinist, pianist, conductor, and composer who often advocated for new music and composers, as well as being an inspiring pedagogue and mentor to many prominent young musicians. We will follow his tradition and include some pieces that are not too often performed but that we are really passionate about, and hope the audience will fall in love with them as well!”

The festival began in Bucharest in 1958, three years after Enescu’s death; it’s been held every two years since then, with concerts throughout Romania and the world, including Canada for the first time this September. (Coincidentally, Charles Richard-Hamelin, a TSM mentor in 2019 will give two recitals in Romania as part of this year’s festival.) The programs for the three Toronto recitals sparkle on paper, with exciting and varied works spread over three venues.

Crow and Solomon (who is the artistic director of the Canadian branch of the festival) fill their program with late-19th- and early-20th-century fireworks representative of Enescu’s legacy. Ravel’s Sonata in G Major was premiered by Ravel at the piano and Enescu on the violin in 1927; Ysaÿe’s “fiery” Sonata for solo violin No.3 was dedicated to Enescu in 1923; Bartók’s Romanian Dances; Brahms’ Sonata No.3 for Violin and Piano; and Enescu’s Toccata from Piano Suite Op.10 and Impromptu Concertant.

RCM faculty members, pianist Michael Berkovsky, violist Barry Shiffman with violinists Conrad Chow and Nuné Melik and cellist David Hetherington settle in for the second concert (at Eglinton St. George’s United Church) featuring Enescu’s Sérénade lointaine, for violin, cello and piano; selections from Ilan Rechtman’s ”very engaging” Jazzicals for Piano Trio and Paul Schenfield’s Cafe Music; plus Brahms “epic” Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op.34. “In the mission of promoting young talent, this concert will also showcase a young rising star, Bill Vu from the Taylor Academy of the Royal Conservatory of Music, in a performance of a short and sweet highly virtuosic Toccata by Paul Constantinescu,” Solomon said.

Omar Massa. Photo by Alex VladAfter playing Montreal on September 21, violinist Alexandru Tomescu and bandoneon master Omar Massa repeat their program on September 22 in the Glenn Gould Studio. It’s a classical potpourri of Bach, Beethoven, Handel, Massenet, Kreisler, Enescu and Porumbescu miniatures before intermission “related to Enescu’s inspirations from Romanian and other European cultures” and “some of the finest works by the jazz giant, Astor Piazzolla,” in the second half. Tomescu’s Strad – he won the right to play it by winning a competition in his native Romania – will doubtless shine.

Barbara Hannigan. Photo by Marco BorggreveToronto Symphony Season Begins

The TSO’s season-opening concerts, September 19 and 21, will showcase the unique talents of the guest artists – Canadian soprano/conductor Barbara Hannigan and Finnish violinist/conductor John Storgårds. Hannigan, the supernova of contemporary song, who just happens to be enamoured of Haydn, will conduct Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, Haydn’s Symphony No.96 “Miracle” and Dutilleux’s Sur le même accord for violin and orchestra, with Storgårds as soloist. Then Storgårds takes the baton for Hannigan to sing Bret Dean’s And once I played Ophelia for soprano and string orchestra before leading the entire orchestra in Sibelius’ Symphony No.3.

Dean’s work uses Shakespeare’s original lines from Hamlet to present Ophelia’s thoughts, as well as what other characters say to and about her, delivered from her own perspective. The libretto is by Matthew Jocelyn, formerly artistic director of Canadian Stage. Interestingly, when Hannigan was in Toronto in March 2015 to take part in the New Creations Festival and give a lecture at U of T, she performed Hans Abrahamsen’s let me tell you, the text of which (by Paul Griffiths) consists entirely of Ophelia’s words in Hamlet. On September 20, Hannigan returns to U of T to give a masterclass on one of her signature roles, Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre, which she called her “party piece” back in 2015. “I felt that Ligeti’s music was so strong that I could exist inside it,” she said. “I felt I could become myself.” The soloist will be Maeve Palmer, who sang Stravinsky’s The Nightingale’s Soliloquy in Hannigan’s 2017 masterclass at the Glenn Gould School, as a Rebanks fellow.

Immediately after the September 20 masterclass in Walter Hall ends at 3pm, Hannigan and Dean will sit down for an hour-long conversation, also in Walter Hall. Both events are free to attend and highly recommended.

Ever-popular conductor Donald Runnicles returns to the TSO on September 27, 28 and 29 leading the orchestra in Brahms’ bucolic Symphony No.3 and two works by Richard Strauss. TSO principal oboist, Sarah Jeffrey, brings her singing tone to Strauss’ charming Concerto in D Major for Oboe and Small Orchestra before Runnicles illuminates the climactic radiance of Strauss’ early tone poem Death and Transfiguration. (Jeffrey was also a mentor at TSM2019. Weeks later, I still vividly recall the lovely interplay between her oboe and Crow’s violin in Schoenberg/Riehn’s stripped-down chamber version of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde played by an all-star band of virtuosi.)

Last June 28, 29 and 30, Gustavo Gimeno conducted the TSO for the first time as music director to be – his five-year contract begins with the 2020/21 season – and the result was an exhilarating evening the night I was there, a scene that reportedly repeated itself on the other nights as well. It was a love-fest of music making highlighted by the visceral virtuosity of Stravinsky’s The Firebird. Gimeno returns to the RTH podium on October 9, 10 and 12 and I look forward to listening for the orchestral balance and sense of musical architecture that Gimeno evinced then in a quite different program featuring the remarkable 26-year-old pianist, Beatrice Rana, who will bring her fearless expressiveness to that bravura staple of the repertoire, Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.3. Gemeno follows with Tchaikovsky’s The Tempest Fantasy-Overture and Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé Suite No.2. After the concert, the audience is invited to stay for a chat with the personable Spaniard whose intelligence and charm were evident after the June concerts when he, concertmaster Jonathan Crow and TSO chief executive officer, Matthew Loden held a lively conversation onstage.

U of T Music Events

The new season of Thursdays at Noon free concerts begins in a big way in Walter Hall on September 12 with a performance by the venerable Gryphon Trio. The following week, September 19, Aiyn Huang and TorQ Percussion perform works by Michael Oesterle, Peter Edwards and more. Violinist Erika Raum and pianist Lydia Wong complete the month’s Thursday midday concerts with Székely’s Sonata for Solo Violin, Op.1 and Bartók’s Violin Sonata No.2.

On September 30, fresh from mentoring at TSM, pianist Steven Philcox joins fellow U of T faculty member, soprano Nathalie Paulin, to present a program inspired by Messiaen’s Chants de Terre et de Ciel (1938), a deeply personal song cycle celebrating the birth of Messiaen’s son in 1937. Quartet-in-residence, the Calidore String Quartet, puts its youthful virtuosity on display as it gets an early jump on Beethoven’s 250th birth-year celebrations with a program of the composer’s Op.74 “Harp,” Op.18, No.4 and Op.131 String Quartets.


SEP 9, 5:30PM: Leaf Music presents an album release concert for Duo Kalysta’s latest recording Origins. The harp (Emily Belvedere) and flute (Lara Deutch) twosome, collaborators since 2012, perform Debussy’s haunting Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and Morlock’s Vespertine I & II at Burdock Music Hall (free admission).

SEP 13 TO 15 AND 20 TO 22: The Prince Edward County Chamber Music Festival, with its distinctive and appealing program, takes over Picton’s St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church for two weekends. The A-list lineup includes the New Orford String Quartet; Jon Kimura Parker and Jamie Parker, pianist-brothers; the Gryphon Trio; soloists from Les Violons du Roy; soprano Julie Nesrallah and pianist Robert Kortgaard; and Charles Richard-Hamelin. Details at

SEP 14, 6PM: DISCoveries contributor Adam Sherkin launches The Piano Has Fallen on Your Head at Rainhard Brewery.

SEP 15, 4PM: Visiting cellist Kate Bennett Wadsworth takes time away from her Tafelmusik commitments to perform Bach’s Suite No.5 in C in the Toronto Music Garden.

SEP 28, 8PM: Confluence Concerts celebrates the music of pianist-composer Clara Schumann with performers Christopher Bagan, Alison Beckwith, Patricia O’Callaghan, Angela Park and Ellie Sievers, all hosted by the engaging Tom Allen. At St. Thomas’s Anglican Church, Toronto.

OCT 3, 1:30PM: The Women’s Musical Club of Toronto’s 122nd season opens with the effervescent Montreal-based Trio Fibonacci in a diverse program anchored by Beethoven’s sparkling Piano Trio Op.70 No.1 “Ghost” – its nickname derived from its eerie-sounding slow movement.

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.

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